Locals working at site

Kohima: About seven years ago, a foundation stone for constructing a 40m RCC Bridge over Dikhu River was laid in Longleng. That was the end of it, or so it was thought.

With no development whatsoever, locals took it upon themselves to construct a temporary 40-metre timber bridge to connect the villages. Dikhu river, a prominent river in Nagaland, flows across the districts of Longleng and Mokokchung.

On December 8, 2012, the then PWD minister (Roads and Bridges) G Kaito Aye laid the foundation stone for the proposed bridge in the presence of S Pangnyu Phom, then parliamentary secretary, (RD & REPA).

Since then, every year, residents from Pongching village took initiatives to build wooden and bamboo bridge over the river to connect with the neighbouring district of Mokokchung, only to see it being washed away during the monsoon season.

After the government’s inaction at the construction of the proposed bridge, locals from the Pongching village came up with the idea of crowdfunding for a timber bridge project that could stand the tides of water for nearly two years.

They formed a committee called the Temporary Bridge Construction Joint Committee was formed to oversee the works. Speaking with EastMojo, President of the committee, Kongba Chungphang, said “This Bridge has become a sensitive issue. But the pandemic was too much for us. Even the Changtonya road was not pliable. So, it became very difficult for medical emergencies also,” Chungphang said.

The foundation stone that was laid in 2012

Several lives were lost after people in need of medical assistance from Pongching village failed to reach the urban medical centres in time. Recalling the death of a dear one who succumbed to a snake bite, Chungphang said “Since there is no ICU in Longleng, they had to run around here and there and in the process, he lost his life. If that bridge could have been made, it would have taken us about two hours to go to Mokokchung for treatment.”

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Chungphang and like-minded people decided to act rather than sit idle and rant about the inaccessibility. “So decided to try something from our end and gather support from the people,” he said. He informed that locals from the neighbouring villages have also been supporting the initiative.

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Gabion cage filled with river rocks are built to support the bridge

In June last year, the plan for the work began. Chungphang said that some research was conducted on how best to implement the project. During the monsoon, he also visited the river to study the water level. After about three months of research, the work was scheduled to begin by November.

However, due to unavoidable issues, the work began only by December. The traditional method of piling up stones in a gabion cage to built pillars is followed. He said that eight gabion cages with 8mm rod has been built and filled river rocks to make the structure for the bridge.

Twenty-feet-long metal rod of 6-inches was used to support the sides of the timber bridge. He informed that all eight pillars were constructed, and the timbers are set to build and complete the bridge’s construction. The work for the bridge would be completed by the second week of February, although the target was January. The timber for the bridge is to be provided by its neighbouring villages.

Due to financial constraints, he informed that only eight local labourers from Pongching village are employed fulltime for the project. However, locals from Pongching villages have been voluntarily assisting in the construction of the bridge.

“Since we need workforce, we inform our village council (Pongching village). So about 30-50 people come to the site whenever required to help us. They also don’t rely on us for their transportation and lunch,” he said. There are times when the local volunteers render their services two times a week. Churches have also been assisting, he added.

Eight pillars have been built so far

Over the past ten years, the locals have been building wooden bridges which remained intact for few months from November to April and then collapse during the summer season due to the rise in water level and the force of the river water.

“We do not know how long the new temporary bridge will last. But we are hoping it will survive the monsoon (when the water level rises in the river). It is for an expectancy of two years,” he added.

He then said that there may be many works (projects) such as this, which are left untouched. “We Nagas just sit and talk. As we are doing the talk, I hope it gives Nagas an idea of community participation,” he said.

For the new bridge, a total budget of Rs 15 lakh is set. He informed that through donations, an amount of Rs 7 lakhs has been collected so far. So far the expenses are concerned, he informed that around Rs 8 lakh is utilized. As the project nears the completion phase, he informed that no crowdfunding will be accepted ones the project is completed.

He informed that the advisor to the Department of Underdeveloped Areas (DUDA) Bangkhao Konyak, donated Rs 2 lakh, and health minister Pangnyu Phom donated Rs 1 lakh.

To maintain transparency, he informed that the list of donors would be notified and put in the public domain at the time of completion of the project.

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