After decades of suffering, residents of two unions in Chattogram’s Raozan have joined the efforts of one visionary, to end their recurring commuting woes every year.
People of Kadalpur and Pahartoli unions are providing voluntary labour to build a bridge on a 300-metre (about 1,000 feet) stretch of path comprising a paddy field and a few ditches between the unions that go under water every monsoon.
All these years, nearly 20,000 villagers of neighbouring areas were left with no option but to take the alternative route, four kilometres in length, to commute between the unions in the rainy season.
The initiative was taken by U Pannya Cakka Thera, a Buddhist monk. He is the principal of Dhamma Vijayarama Bihar in Khaiyakhali village.
During a recent visit to the site, some 50 villagers were seen working tirelessly under the scorching Baishakh sun to build the structure.
During a recent visit to the construction site, villagers, irrespective of age and sex, were seen working enthusiastically. Sexagenarian Adhir Barua came all the way from the port city’s Chandgaon neighbourhood to lend a hand.
“I am feeling blessed to be a part of this great initiative. The bridge will remove long-standing sufferings of villagers,” he told this correspondent.
Sumi Barua, a homemaker, said, “The bridge is being built for the villagers. So I could not help but come and take part.”
Antu Barua, a fourth-year student of physics at Chittagong College, said he was proud to be a part of the philanthropic act. Siddiqur Rahman, a teacher at Khaiyakhali High School, said the monk had brought respite to 300 students of his school.
“Villagers have been trying to build a bridge here for decades, but to no avail. At one point, they lost hope. Students of four schools in the unions are the worst sufferers,” said Ashutosh Barua, a member of Pahartoli Union Parishad.
The stalemate remained as the two union councils could not decide who would lead the project, and villagers were also divided, Ashutosh explained.
Pannya took up the initiative at the beginning of this year. “I first talked to villagers to know whether they had any objection if a bridge was built over the isle of the paddy field. The land owners said they had no objection,” the 54-year-old monk told this paper.
“Then I talked to Utpal Barua, former engineer of Chattogram City Corporation and he agreed to design the bridge. Once the design was done, I started work on January 21, with Tk 100,000 of my savings,” he went on.
Pannya said his disciples at home and abroad, as well as villagers made contributions to fund the project.
Initially, Panna started the construction work for 232 feet of the bridge. Once completed, the 5.5-foot high bridge would be 1,464 feet in length and four feet in width, engineer Utpal Barua said.
About 60 percent of the work is done while the rest was expected to be completed before the advent of monsoon, he said, adding, the estimated cost was Tk 50 lakh.