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How suspension bridges work and the tragedy in Morbi

GS Paper 3

Syllabus: DM+ Governance


Sources: Indian Express

 Context: The century-old cable suspension bridge in Gujarat’s Morbi, collapsed into the river, sending hundreds plunging into the water. The bridge was a tourist attraction and had long been hailed as a magnificent engineering marvel.


Technical reasons for the collapse of the 19th Century pedestrian bridge are:

  1. Overcrowding
  2. Crowd-induced vibrations
  3. End of the ‘service life’


Probable cause of such disasters: Coming out of the long restrictions on travel necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, people all over the world appear to be binging on travel and outings.

  • A stampede in Seoul in South Korea killed 154 people last week.
  • In India also, record numbers of people are thronging tourism and pilgrimage spots.


How to mitigate such kinds of disasters:

While tourism and travel are powerful engines of the economy, there must be more attention paid to ensure that they are safe and sustainable.

  • Tourist and pilgrimage centres around the country should carry out safety and environmental audits to ensure that crowd management and safety protocols are in place to avoid tragedies such as this.
  • Development of new centres where large numbers of people are expected should account for such contingencies.
  • The rapid pace of road and infrastructure development in ecologically sensitive areas such as the Himalayas should be in accordance with topographic limitations.
  • Tourism promotion campaigns must include creating safety awareness among visitors and local officials.
  • More must be done to regulate the flow of travellers according to the infrastructure capacity of particular destinations.


What is a suspension bridge?

As the name implies, suspension bridges suspend the roadway by cables, ropes or chains from two tall towers. In simple words, it is a type of bridge in which the deck is hung below suspension cables on vertical suspenders.


How does it work?

Suspension bridges depend on the balance of the forces of compression and tension.

  • The design ensures that the load on the suspension cables is transferred to the towers at the two ends, which transfer them further by vertical compression to the ground by way of the anchorage cables.
  • All of this balancing has to happen within the permissible weight restrictions for the bridge.


Way forward:

A mechanism should be put in place to ensure that any bridge opened for public transport should conform to prescribed standards and specifications and is safe in all respects to be carrying passenger traffic.

  • There should be a mechanism to audit the development work of bridges across the country.
  • There should be proper guidelines detailing the dos and don’ts.


History of the ‘Jhulto Pul’ Bridge:  It was a pedestrian suspension bridge that was inaugurated in 1879. The bridge was made during the reign of Sir Waghji Ravaji, the Thakur Sahib of Morbi. Sir Waghji is credited with planning and building the entire city of Morbi.

Morbi: Morbi in Gujrat is famous for its ceramic industry. The district is dotted by several hundred ceramic-producing factories, mainly medium and small-scale units. Around 70 per cent of India’s ceramics are produced in Morbi.

Machchhu river: Machchhu is a small river that rises in the Madla Hills and flows 130 km into the Rann of Kutch.


Insta facts:

World’s longest suspension bridge: Akashi Kaikyo Bridge (Japan)  – 1,991m


Insta link:

Indian Bridge Management System

Mains Ques:

Q. Discuss the recent measures initiated in disaster management by the Government of India departing from the earlier reactive approach. (CSE 2020)