Small wooden bridges get a new lease of life

Efforts are being made to preserve and promote the skill of its construction

An attempt is being made to preserve and promote the skill of construction of small wooden bridges, which are vital for connecting remote houses, at Mala village located in the lush green surroundings of Western Ghats in Udupi district.

Small wooden narrow bridges built over small streams help in connecting far and remote houses located in small villages in the Western Ghats. These bridges are made mostly out of arecanut logs, a skill which is fast vanishing as people are leaving villages, while in some accessible places small concrete bridges are coming up.

Now the construction of these narrow wooden bridges is getting a new lease of life, thanks to the efforts of Prachi Foundation. These bridges are artistically designed and attractive and walking on them is an experience one would not like to miss.

This foundation is promoting construction of the bridges at Mala. There are a couple of houses in one or the other area of the village, which require small bridge across the streams. “Normally people put a few wooden logs to cross. But this could be dangerous if children are crossing it,” said Purushotham Adve, Founder, Prachi Foundation, who also lives in the village.

Hence, the foundation decided to construct these bridges with the help of skilled workers of the village. It has constructed one bridge with the help of 12 persons, including skilled workers and a couple of volunteers. The bridge was built with the help of logs of dead arecanut trees and using local materials. Even the rope used for the bridge was sourced from the vines.

The bridge is about 30-ft-long and three-ft-wide with side wood railings. It was constructed in two days. Two persons from either side can cross this bridge. “Building bridges is a skill which should be encouraged, preserved and promoted,” said Mr. Adve.

The construction of this bridge cost about ₹6,000. “It has also provided work to the skilled labourers especially during monsoon when little work is available,” he said.

The foundation will be constructing three more bridges in the village. These bridges will be built in different styles and no bridge will be similar to the other. “We will be taking up construction of these bridges during the coming weekends,” said Mr. Adve.

Even though small concrete bridges can be built, they mar the beauty of the area. Besides getting funds from the government for small bridges, especially when the number of houses it connects is less, is tough.

Once built, these wooden bridges require some maintenance the next year. “These bridges would have to be discarded in the third year as they become weak. Again new wooden bridges have to be built and this will ensure that the skill survives,” said Mr. Adve.

Yet another objective of the foundation is also to promote eco-friendly tourism. “People living in cities can come and see the beauty of these bridges, walk on them, and go on a nature trail. This will also generate some income for the people of the village,” he said.

Srinivas Mera, a farm worker, who participated in the construction of the bridge, said that promotion of construction of wooden bridges was a positive development. “I learnt the skill to construct these bridges from my father and grandfather. I have been doing it for over 20 years and get ₹550 per day,” he said.

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