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Atal Setu: Strategic bridge spurting commercial, tourist activities

Post by on Wednesday, September 29, 2021

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 When Isha Andotra sang a song on ‘Atal Setu’ while on an exposure trip with her peers, she had not imagined that the song would become an online sensation with million views and lakhs of shares. The song not only made Isha of a nondescript village Mada Patti of tehsil Mahanpur, Kathua famous but also brings forth the beautiful ambience around the bridge named after former Prime Minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
‘Atal’ signifies firmness and the name befit the bridge which connects two northern states and a UT – Punjab, Himachal and Jammu & Kashmir. The strength of the bridge can be gauged from the fact that its span layout is symmetric (121m – 350m -121m), with pylons positioned at the top of the river banks. Two inclined cable planes splay outwards from each pylon in a semi-fan configuration, connecting to the superstructure at 14- meter spacing in the main span and 10.3 meters in the side spans. Near the abutments, three sets of intermediate piers spaced at just over 20 meters form a secondary support system. The bridge accommodates two lanes for traffic as well as two footpaths.
The peculiarity of this bridge is that the main span and back span are balanced by cable and this bridge has been designed by Canadian Company, Infinity Engineers. IIT New Delhi had approved the design of this bridge. Nearly 300 ton specially designed cables from Japan and Spain were procured for this bridge.
The bridge came to existence after a long struggle fought jointly by the residents of tehsil Basholi and Bani, the two remotest tehsils of Kathua district when Ranjit Sagar Dam came into existence after submergence of 22 villages. And, when this engineering marvel gets completed after 5 years, the foundation of which was laid in May 2010, it instantly became a lifeline for the people living across its two sides, one in Punjab and another in J&K. The bridge not only reduces the distance between Basholi and Pathankot, in Punjab by 35 KM, saving time and fuel but also opened the flood-gate for the tourists to the picturesque areas of Basohli, Bani, Sarthal and Bhaderwah from Dalhousie and Chamba sides.
Flock of people in large numbers from J&K, Punjab and other neighboring states are also visiting this bridge to witness its magnificence as it is the fourth cable stayed bridge of its kind in the country after Worli in Mumbai, Howrah in Kolkata and Nagpur in Maharashtra but first of the kind in North India. This bridge has a low centre of gravity which makes it efficient in resisting earthquakes and has a unique architectural appearance due to their small diameter cables and unique overhead structure.  
Gust of crisp air blown from across the Shivalik range of mountains when pats on one’s face while walking on this bridge will refresh anyone to its core. Lighting on bridge during night and other tourist amenities like toilet complex and steamer service in the waters of Ranjit Sagar Dam operated by the Forest Department is also increasing tourist footfall in this area.
Basohli and Bani tehsils of district Kathua are famous for the beauty bestowed by the bountiful nature. With the completion of this cable stayed bridge over river Ravi, Basohli which is the confluence of three states, owing to its geographical location, will not only became the gate way of Jammu and Kashmir but will be known as the first tourist place on the threshold of Jammu and Kashmir with a number of other beautiful and exciting tourist spots enroute Basohli, Bani and Bhaderwah. On crossing this Bridge, one will find himself in a quite different world.
The vast stretch of 88 sq. kms Ranjeet Sagar lake below, the picturesque Basohli town surrounded by the Shivaliks, the fort shrine of Mata Chanchlo Devi, Sunan Ghat, the cool spot at the lower altitude, Dhar Mahanpur, Jaurian Mata shrine and the endless chain of many more places have marked their presence not only as famous tourist spots but also promotes religious tourism in the region.
From defence point of view also the bridge holds strategic importance as it provides all weather connectivity on Pathankot-Bhaderwah axis, will help in quick induction of armed forces during emergency besides an alternate connectivity to Kashmir region is established which will go a long way in improving the overall security calculus of the region.
The bridge made Purthu, the banal place, into a famous tourist destination having the distinction of witnessing a maximum number of pre wedding shoots. 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 have been specifically earmarked for developing various tourist amenities under Swadesh Darshan scheme at this place.
J&K Excise Department established a toll post on this bridge to regulate trade and become an important source of revenue generation for the UT. The traders also benefited immensely as they now have access to the neighboring markets of Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.
The dying art of Basohli painting also gets a fresh lease of life after this alternate connectivity as the artists are now able to get a better market for their paintings besides novice artists are also visiting Basohli to learn this unique art form.
The bridge can be leveraged for promoting rope-based adventure sports like bungee jumping and giant swing in J&K. Instead of waiting for the Government's proposal and approval, private players must be encouraged for overall development of sporting as well as tourism infrastructure in the area.                     
View-points must be developed near the bridge for tourists and locals besides other tourist resources so that the bridge can realize its name by strengthening the socio-economic status of the nearby residents.
 

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