A Bridge too Far
A Bridge too Far

Suspension bridges are vital to travel in remote Nepal, and millions of rupees have been poured into their construction over the last 10 years. In areas far from motorable roads, suspension bridges over incredibly steep gorges reduce walking times by many hours, if not days.

Everything gets carried over these bridges: patients to hospitals, produce to market and goods back to the village, pipe for water and irrigation systems, toilet pans, cement and corrugated iron for construction, tools and seed and, of course, food. Children use them to get to school; women rely on them to reach health posts and birthing centres. Without them, many villages are completely cut off.

This week, a UMN team led by structural engineer Peter Lockwood visited Lapa and Jharlang VDCs to check on the condition of suspension bridges. They’ll be essential to carry in supplies for rebuilding, by porters or mules. What Peter and the team found was disturbing.

Most of the bridges they surveyed were unusable. In many cases, the concrete blocks that anchor the cables were cracked, or had been completely broken up by rockfalls and landslides. Cables had come loose and were trailing; bridge decking was sloping and unstable. A huge investment will be needed to get these bridges back in operation.
The suspension bridge over Ankhu Khola is the principal access route into Lapa VDC, and it’s unusable. Without it, a two-day walk becomes four or five days of difficult climbing over high ridges and into deep gorges. The immanent approach of the monsoon makes this even more pressing. In some places, it is possible to walk down into the gorges, wade across the river, and climb up the other side. Not in the monsoon though, when the rivers become rushing torrents.
Working in these remote VDCs will continue to be a major challenge!

Many of the suspension bridges in remote areas are broken or badly damaged.

Easy enough to cross the river now, but not when it is swollen with monsoon rains.

Cracked concrete blocks mean the cable mountings are insecure.

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *