Atal Setu: Strategic bridge spurting out commercial and tourist activities

When Isha Andotra performed a song on “Atal Setu” on an exhibition trip with her peers, she hadn’t imagined the song would become an online sensation with millions of views and thousands of shares. The song not only made Isha from an indescribable Mada Patti village of tehsil Mahanpur, Kathua famous, but also brought out the beautiful atmosphere around the bridge named after former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

“Atal” means steadfastness, and the name suits the bridge that connects two northern states and one UT: Punjab, Himachal, and Jammu and Kashmir. The strength of the bridge can be measured by the fact that its span layout is symmetrical (121m – 350m -121m), with pylons positioned at the top of the river banks. Two inclined cable planes flare outward from each pylon in a semi-fan configuration, connecting to the superstructure at a spacing of 14 meters in the main span and 10.3 meters in the side spans. Near the abutments, three series of intermediate piers spaced a little over 20 meters apart form a secondary support system. The bridge accommodates two traffic lanes as well as two trails.

The peculiarity of this bridge is that the main span and the rear span are balanced by cable and this bridge was designed by the Canadian company, Infinity Engineers. IIT New Delhi had approved the design of this bridge. Almost 300 tonnes of specially designed cables from Japan and Spain were purchased for this bridge.

The bridge came into being after a long struggle jointly waged by the inhabitants of tehsil Basholi and Bani, the two most remote tehsils of the Kathua district, when the Ranjit Sagar dam came into being after 22 villages were submerged. And, when this engineering marvel was completed after 5 years, the foundations of which were laid in May 2010, it instantly became a lifeline for the people living on both sides of it, one in Punjab and the other. at J&K. The bridge not only reduced the distance between Basholi and Pathankot, Punjab by 35 km, saving time and fuel, but also opened the door for tourists to the scenic areas of Basohli, Bani, Sarthal and Bhaderwah on the Dalhousie sides and Chamba.

Large numbers of people from J&K, Punjab and other neighboring states also visit this bridge to testify to its magnificence as it is the fourth such cable-stayed bridge in the country after Worli in Mumbai, Howrah in Kolkata and Nagpur in Maharashtra but the first of its kind in North India. This bridge has a low center of gravity which makes it effective in resisting earthquakes and has a unique architectural appearance due to its small diameter cables and unique overhead structure.

A gust of cool air blowing through the Shivalik Mountain Range as you pat your face while walking on this bridge will refresh anyone in their essence. Lighting on the bridge at night and other tourist facilities like the toilet complex and the steamboat service in the waters of the Ranjit Sagar Dam operated by the Forestry Department is also increasing tourist attendance in this area.

The Basohli and Bani tehsils of Kathua district are famous for the beauty conferred by bountiful nature. With the completion of this cable-stayed bridge over the Ravi River, Basohli which is the confluence of three states, due to its geographical location, will not only become the gateway to Jammu and Kashmir, but will also be known as the first tourist spot on the doorstep. of Jammu and Kashmir with a number of other beautiful and exciting tourist spots en route Basohli, Bani and Bhaderwah. Crossing this bridge, we will find ourselves in a whole other world.

The vast 88 km² expanse of Ranjeet Sagar Lake below, the picturesque town of Basohli surrounded by the Shivaliks, the strong shrine of Mata Chanchlo Devi, Sunan Ghat, the cooler place at lower elevation, Dhar Mahanpur, the Jaurian Mata shrine and the endless chain of many other places have marked their presence not only as famous tourist spots, but also promote religious tourism in the region.

From a defense perspective, the bridge is also of strategic importance as it provides all-weather connectivity on the Pathankot-Bhaderwah axis, will assist in the rapid induction of armed forces in an emergency in addition to connectivity alternative to the Kashmir region is established, which will greatly help improve the overall security calculation of the region.

The bridge has made Purthu, the mundane place, a famous tourist destination with the particularity of attending as many pre-wedding shoots as possible. The place has a long catchment area of ​​lake water which makes it an ideal and unique tourist spot in the region. Rs. 100 Crore has been specifically earmarked for the development of various tourist amenities under the Swadesh Darshan program at this location.

J & K’s excise department established a toll booth on this bridge to regulate trade and become an important source of income for UT. Traders have also benefited enormously as they now have access to neighboring markets in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.

The dying art of Basohli painting also takes on a new lease of life after this alternative connectivity, as artists are now able to get a cheaper market for their paintings, in addition to novice artists also visit Basohli to learn this art form. unique.

The bridge can be used to promote rope-based adventure sports like bungee jumping and giant J&K swing. Instead of waiting for government proposal and approval, private actors should be encouraged for the overall development of sports and tourism infrastructure in the region.

Viewpoints should be provided near the bridge for tourists and locals in addition to other tourism resources so that the bridge can realize its name by enhancing the socio-economic status of nearby residents.

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