Work Stopped at World’s Tallest Railway Bridge in Manipur
| Onkareshwar Pandey - 15 Mar 2019

45 Tunnels & Twice the Height of Qutub Minar

World’s Tallest Railway Bridge in Manipur May Not be Completed to Its Target

  • World's tallest railway pier bridge on river Ijai with a pier height of 141 meters (462.598 feet)
  • The Noney bridge will surpass the existing record of 139 meters of the Mala-Rijeka Viaduct in Montenegro in Europe
  • The bridge will be twice the height of Qutub Minar which is the tallest minaret made up of brick in the world! 
  • Total 16,500 Tone Steel being used for this bridge, which is supplied by SAIL
  • Aggregate is being transported from Pakur, Jharkhand
  • The project will have 45 tunnels in total, the longest being 10.280 Km long


By Onkareshwar Pandey with Brown Nongmaithem, Bureau chief, IOP, Imphal

Imphal, March 16, 2019: The tallest railway bridge of the world in Manipur may not be completed on time. The construction work on this prestigious and strategically most important bridge on the eastern border has been stopped for over three weeks. March 2020 was the deadline of completion the Noney bridge and railway line till Tupul station near Imphal valley in Manipur. However, the project will surely be delayed, if the present pace of work prevails.

The Noney Bridge on river Ijai, is part of the new 111-km long Jiribam-Tupul-Imphal broad gauge line project and it will connect Manipur with the rest of the country. The bridge will be twice the height of Qutub Minar which is the tallest minaret made up of brick in the world! 

The cost of Jiribam-Tupul-Imphal project is pegged at Rs 13,809 crore and the railway line will pass through steep hills, deep gorges and will cross over several rivers in the region.

The Northeast Frontier Railway is constructing this bridge at Noney in Manipur, as a part of a new broad gauge line, which is being constructed to connect the northeastern state with the rest of the country. The pillars have already been built.

On completion, the Noney bridge with a pier height of 141 meters (462.598 feet), will surpass the existing record of 139 meters of the Mala-Rijeka Viaduct in Montenegro in Europe.

The Noney Bridge is expected to exceed that height of European bridge upon completion and is expected to be over 142 meters tall.

The Northeast Frontier Railway has already managed to construct 100 meters tall pier in this railway bridge. However, the construction work has stopped since the last few weeks due to several reasons.

According to the local laborers, they have stopped working because of non-payments on time. The subcontractors told Indian Observer Post, that the payments are not being released on time which has affected the construction work.

Nonavailability of the construction materials are also one of the major reasons of delay in the project, which comes from several places.

“All materials come from outside and it takes time due to strikes and bandhs on the highways at several places in the northeastern states,” said an official on the condition of anonymity, adding that the work was stalled since last 20 days, however, the issues have been solved and the construction work will resume soon.

Steel Authority of India is supplying Steel for this bridge. Total 16,500 Tone Steel is being used to complete the bridge. Stones are being transported from Pakur, Jharkhand. And Cement and other materials are being transported from Meghalaya and other states.

The total length of the bridge will be 703 meters. The piers of the bridge are constructed using hydraulic augers, the tall piers needed specially designed ‘slip-form technique’ to ensure efficient and continual construction."

There are self-erecting lifts at each pier to ensure safe and quick transport of men and construction material to the stop. 

The construction work of the world's tallest railway Pier Bridge near Noney in Manipur, India was awarded in 2013, but it could not start on time due to some local issues. Finally, the construction work began on 28 July 2014. The railway is working on to this project that would provide rail connectivity to the capital of landlocked Manipur.

The project will have 45 tunnels in total, the longest being 10.280 Km long. This tunnel will be the longest railway tunnel in the Northeast. 

The laborers have left the work side. And no senior official of the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) was seen on the ground when Indian Observer Post team visited the construction site three days ago. 

According to sources when enquired at the work side said, Indian Observer Post, that “the North East Frontier Railway authorities, which are looking after the construction of  this world's tallest railway bridge at Noney in Manipur, have not cleared a huge amount of bills and other wages of the workers and laborers.”

 There is also a plan to connect this line to Moreh, India to link Myanmar in the future and expected to bolster trade relation with the Asian countries.

It will also be helpful in military operations and tourism development in the state. The North East Frontier Railway Organisation is administering the whole Project and the Chief Engineer of NF Railway is in charge of the project.

There are several gaps in the project. Even if the construction of the railway bridge and line is completed, there are no facilities for tourists. Still, there is no plan to built hotels near railway station as of now. However, some houses in Noney will soon be open for tourists as the Manipur government plans to promote homestay in the picturesque town.

The  Indian Observer Post team visited at the work site recently and talked to the villagers of the area and the laborers of the work site. They all have different stories to tell.

The laborers said that initially, the railways had started producing bricks out of waste soil in a manufacturing unit in Manipur as part of its ambitious project to provide Imphal rail connectivity, which started near the banks of Ijil river Noney. However, it was stopped when local residents protested against the Railway authorities for polluting the river water.

“The NF Railway with the help of NIT Silchar has turned the excess excavated soil into bricks that are being used for protective works of bridges, pitching of slopes, steps for going down along the embankment and lining of drains,” alleged local residents.

“The Ijei River near Noney has become highly contaminated owing to direct discharge” from a construction site of a railway line,” alleged Mrs Gaipuilu Panmei, Secretary, Rongmei Lup Phaum.

“We all residents of Noney and many villagers residing along the riverside consume water directly from the streams, jeopardising our health. Henceforth, we raised voice against the Railway Authorities for polluting the muddy river water, polluted with toxic chemicals for excavating the earth,” said Gaipuilu Panmei.

The villagers had also earlier imposed a statewide bandh to stop these menace activities.

The construction of the railway alignment through the hilly terrain entails excavation of huge quantities of the earth (soil). The excess excavated soil is generally dumped into low-lying areas which eventually flow into the streams and then the rivers causing high water pollution.

However, taking into consideration of the villagers' anger and woes, the Railway authorities have made an attempt in minimising the dumping of soil into water bodies.

Indian Observer Post Imphal Correspondent visited the affected villagers to get a first hand report at the railway construction site along the Ijei River in Noney.

Pointing out that “the Ijei River is the main source of water for over 30 thousand from 2000 households people in Noney and about 10 surrounding villages,” Gaipuilu noted that “the people were faced with immense difficulties as the water source had become polluted in the last three to four years.”

“Fishes and other species in the river are dying due to the pollution while paddy fields in Noney, Tupul, Sibilong, and Marangjing have also been badly affected,” she added.

Rose Kamei, BJP Vice President, Tamenglong district also said that “the villagers have stopped using water from the Ijei River as the water is highly contaminated.”

Rose Kamei added, “The villagers have already made several complaints to the railway authorities in this regard, but to no avail.”

Mrs Gaipuilu Panmei, Secretary, Rongmei Lu Phuam, while welcoming developmental projects, asserted that “the people will oppose any kind of destruction of the environment.”

However, according to Railway Authorities, “In the latest initiative, the Railways has decided to convert waste soil into traditional bricks, to be used in its construction project of the 111 km line to provide Imphal rail connectivity.

Usually, the Railways buys traditional bricks from factories and transports them to the site which turns out to be a costly affair. Experiments conducted by NIT Silchar in their lab led to a successful formula–the conversion of unused soil into bricks.

Gautam Singh, Deputy Chief Engineer, Construction, Northeast Frontier Railway, and in charge of the Jiribam-Imphal line could not be contacted even after several attempts for his comments.

Video Link -  l3s7dagAdqg

Images - Brown Nongmaithem and Google 

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