In August this year, a British-era bridge across the Savitri river on the Mumbai-Goa highway collapsed. The tragedy occurred in the dead of the night and over ten vehicles were washed away, killing more than 26 people while 30 people were swept away in the swollen river.
In a country where construction collapses are quite the norm, the government is now waking up to the possibility of using modern technology to ensure the safety of bridges and their timely maintenance. Recently, minister of road transport & highways and shipping Nitin Gadkari, launched the Indian Bridge Management System (IBMS) in New Delhi.
“IBMS is preparing a database of all bridges in the country and detailing their structural condition so that timely action can be taken to repair the structures or build new ones in their place,” said Gadkari.
In early 2015, the government had roped in IDDC Engineers, an infrastructure development firm, to develop this system. Subsequently, a National Bridge Management Centre (NBMC) was also up in Noida within Indian Academy for Highway Engineers (IAHE). According to an official, so far 1,15,000 bridges have been inventorised, of which 85,000 are culverts and the rest are bridges.
According to a ministry official, during the process each bridge is assigned a unique identification number based on the state, RTO zone and whether it is situated on a national highway, state highway or on a district road. The precise location of the bridge in terms of latitude-longitude is collected through GPS and based on this, it is assigned a bridge location number. Thereafter, engineering characteristics like the design, materials, type of bridge, its age, loading, traffic lane, length, width of carriage way are collected to assign a bridge classification number to the structure.
These are then used to do a structural rating of the structure on a scale of 0 to 9, and each bridge is assigned a structural rating number. Based on the data gathered, IBMS will identify bridges that need attention. Accordingly, the ministry will enhance its life and prioritise repair and rehabilitation work, said the official.
According to Jaijit Bhattacharya, partner, infrastructure and government services at KPMG India, this platform is a step towards having an alarm system which will alert the authorities before a bridge collapses or needs urgent repair. “There has been a need to put the
sensors below the bridges and connect them to an online platform so that these devices (sensors) should trigger the information before a bridge collapse. This initiative is a great shift towards the vision that every bridge will have its own sensor and online database,” he added.