A bridge in Dinajpur Sadar Upazila is becoming vulnerable to collapse because of sand lifting activities in close proximity to the structure, alleged locals.
Sediments around four out of the six piers of the Majadanga Bridge have washed away exposing the piles, they claimed.
Around 1,500 people of 13 villages, benefitting from the bridge, expressed their concern under the banner of ‘Majadanga Bridge Protection Committee’ at a rally in front of Dinajpur Press Club on November 11, demanding an immediate stop to the sand mining activities.
Built in 2005 at an approximate cost of Tk 1.7 crore, the rod-cement-concrete girder bridge on the Purnarbhaba river connects the district headquarter with Biral, Kaharol and Bochaganj upazilas.
Seven influential quarters have been lifting sand from the river for the last three years by setting dredger machines on both sides of the bridge, about 500 metres away from its piers, alleged the speakers at the rally.
President of Majadanga Bridge Protection Committee Nurul Islam also blamed the sand lifting activity for creating large holes in the riverbed, where in the last three years eight children and an elderly man had drowned.
After the rally, the villagers submitted a memorandum in this regard to Dinajpur Deputy Commissioner Mahmudul Alam.
Mahmudul claimed that the bridge was damaged from before, and sand mining is not taking places within 200 metres from the structure, as per DC office restriction.
If anyone is found lifting sand by violating the rules, as the villagers claimed, then action will be taken against the sand lifters, he said.
Sources at the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) in Dinajpur informed that department officials visited the site recently.
A LGED engineer, wishing anonymity, said it no longer matters whether sand lifting is taking place within 200 metres from the bridge.
Based on their assessment of the situation, all kind of mining activity should be stopped in the area surrounding the bridge, he added.
The official informed that holes have been created around some of the piles, as sediments shifted away from the structure.
Holes around piles can reduce their ability to hold together under a load and increase the risk of breakage or deformation, he explained.
Executive Engineer Khalilur Rahman of the department said, on November 7 they received a letter from the DC office asking for a detailed report on the hazards caused to the bridge by the sand lifting activity.
Meanwhile, the following day, angry villagers burnt a dredging machine, owned by one of the sand lifting contractors Mahfuz Alam.
Attempts at reaching Mahfuz, both over phone and in person, failed.