Building Bridges: Shaping the Future

‘Building Bridges’ is a technical book that reads like a novel, and acts like a reference point and a guide, with its systematic compilation of information on bridges across India. It presents the world’s first fully digitalized bridge management system; and describes the evolution of the Indian Bridge Management System (IBMS) from its conceptualization to the challenges faced, and the future of bridge management using AI in the next 20 years.

On 4 January 2022, Minister for Road Transport & Highways, Shri. Nitin Gadkari released the e-book ‘Building Bridges: Shaping the Future’. Author Sachidanand Joshi, Chair IDDC Engineers, was behind the technical conceptualization of IBMS, based on his extensive experience in the rehabilitation of structures. Co-author Vaibhav Dange, former Secretary to Shri. Gadkari and current Advisor to the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), helped compile the historical events described in the IBMS.

Shri Gadkari has been a strong proponent of the idea of IBMS, given the need to ensure safe and healthy bridges in India. Bridges are a means of connectivity, enabling exchange of resources, seamless transportation of people and materials, and are important links in the economy of states and across regions.

During the unveiling of the book, a video highlighted the collapse of almost 2000 bridges in the past. With IBMS it will be possible to predict the failure of bridges and avoid mishaps. IBMS also aspires to integrate AI for automatic inspection of bridges using drones and data analysis.

Shri Nitin Gadkari informed that there were no rules, regulations or research conducted on bridges by the government, and no documented information about the life of bridges. The Indian system focused only on building bridges but not repairing them. But now, the Centre is ready to formulate a framework to know the condition and age of all the bridges across the country. He said, “There was no expiry date for bridges. Tragic accidents happened due to such negligence, like the bridge collapse on Savitri river in Maharashtra in 2016.”
“It has become extremely important now, that along with the financial audit of bridges, their performance and quality construction audit should be given equal importance.”

The book underlines the importance of safe and strong bridges, and their economic benefits through facilitating logistics. It also presents the most advanced bridge surveillance system in the world. It offers timely interventions for bridge safety and its prolonged life by outlining bridge rectification measures and processes. No, doubt, the book on a fully digitalized Indian Bridge Management System will serve as a reference guide for the inspection and repairing of bridges, as well as their predictive and preventive maintenance.

Sachidanand Joshi notified that the oldest documented bridge in India was the Ramsetu bridge; and the concept of a bridge management system was formed when the Silver Bridge in America collapsed. He thanked all the stakeholders, including the software team for their collaborative efforts and synergy in the development of the IBMS.

Sharing interesting incidents that led to the idea of IBMS, Vaibhav Dange apprised that when a proposal was presented to Shri. Gadkari for a survey on the number of bridges in India, it was rejected for being too costly. However, it was found that the high price quoted was an exaggerated guesswork as there was no database on bridges in India.

In another incident, the issue of the (long) time taken in logistics was raised at a conference. Also discussed were the permissions needed from the government for mobilizing heavy machinery OWC (Overweight Cargo) and/or ODC (Over Dimensional Cargo) on a bridge. Time was wasted on getting the permissions because a government authority would first survey the bridge for fitness every time heavy cargo had to go over it. This again prompted the demand for a centralized repository of data of bridges in India.
“IBMS database is the world’s largest database of bridges owned by any single owner wherein data for over 172,000 plus bridges and structures exist.”

In this completely digitalized system, data can be fed through Tablet PC while standing near the bridge. The Indian Express has awarded IBMS as the best digital platform in the country.

Shri. Gadkari also touched on the importance of designs of bridges in coastal areas and use of stainless-steel fibers instead of steel in their construction. Steel reinforcement could reduce costs by almost Rs. 30,000 crores. Bridges in Malaysia, with large spans of 45m, reduce the number of piers needed to support the deck, thus saving costs by 30-40%. In India, bridges are of small spans of 30m because of which more material gets used in the numerous piers. Also, in the ROB designed to cross a railway line and the pier to be placed between the railway line, the time needed to obtain permissions from the railways is too lengthy. So, there is a need to focus on development of better joints for bridge spans.

The Minister shared plans to develop multi-storey roads in Nagpur and Pune; and gave a case study of the Zojila tunnel on how he saved Rs. 5000 crore in its construction by conducting a workshop with the engineers wherein he forced them to come up with out-of-the-box solutions, rather than use the conventional practices. He appealed to the engineers to be aware of bridge designs, new construction methods, and technologies, across the world, so that India could also advance technologically for making bridges that were economical, sustainable, and beautiful. He said that in western countries, bridges are displayed as marvelous creations, but this is not so in India. He, therefore, prompted the engineers to also focus on the aesthetics of a bridge and provide provisions for decorative lighting, so that they could become tourist attractions.

Building Bridges: Shaping the Future

IBMS: Concept and Ideation
Building Bridges is based on a true story of Rudrapratab and his team of engineers, whose dedication and talent inspired the development of India’s first bridge management system (IBMS). Witnessing early on in life the tragic and wasteful loss of lives that bridge collapses cause, Rudrapratab began to create a comprehensive digitised system that could inspect and repair bridges, and offer timely interventions to prolong the lives of old structures.

Along with associate Ajit, Rudrapratab builds an able team of engineers whose meticulous research forms the basis of the beta inventory module of the Indian Bridge Management System. However, his journey is fraught with bureaucratic hurdles and when a reticent administration repeatedly turns down his proposal for a bridge management system, he nearly gives up on his dream, till Shri. Gadkari steps in with his support and belief in the idea of a IBMS. This eye-opening book looks back on the bumpy yet rewarding journey of a bunch of tenacious engineers who aspire to create a modern India with the most advanced bridge surveillance and management system and envision a future where no life would ever be lost because of faulty bridges.

About the authors
Sachidanand Joshi is a familiar name in the international bridge management fraternity. He is a staunch advocate of First Repair Worst Defect, and prevention of distress in management of engineering structures. His four decades of professional experience and passion for research led to the evolution of the Indian Bridge Management System (IBMS). He continues his research to integrate multi-dimensional technologies with the IBMS/UBMS platforms. Many of his technical papers, articles and documents have been presented at international and national conferences and seminars.

With an MBA degree under his belt, Vaibhav Dange devoted his knowledge in management to implementing processes for ensuring speedy redressal of issues in all spheres of activities. From 2014 to 2019, he was the Private Secretary to the Honorable Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Shri Nitin Gadkari, and was closely associated with all development works related to the national highways. During this tenure, he got involved in the IBMS project, and his deep knowledge and insight resulted in many innovations within the IBMS. He is associated with various infrastructure projects undertaken by NHAI and he publishes his insights and experiences.

(The book is available on Amazon, Amazon Kindle, in bookstores, and on the official website of Manjul Publishing House).
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