Patuakhali bridge on the river Patuakhali is crucial for communications with Payra sea port, several ongoing power plants in the region, district headquarters of Patuakhali and Barishal, and Kuakata sea beach.
But unfortunately, the authorities turned a blind eye to the safety of this key installation as well as that of the general public although all 84 street lamps on it had been out of order since 2005, only six months after the bridge was inaugurated.
The foundation stone of Patuakhali bridge was laid on July 8, 2000 by then prime minister Sheikh Hasina and it was inaugurated on November 29, 2005 by Khaleda Zia, the then prime minister.
Roads and Highways Department (RHD) spent Tk 40 lakh to install the lighting fixtures along with lamp posts on the 485.20-metre-long bridge. Total cost to construct the bridge was Tk 27.17 crore.
Many drivers and transport workers frequenting the Patuakhali-Barishal highway said curves on both ramps of the bridge, with a width of only 10 metres, are quite difficult to manoeuvre even in daytime.
At night, soon after passing a curve, it becomes extremely difficult for the drivers to locate and cross the unlit bridge, they also said.
During a visit to the bridge recently, this correspondent came across many lamp posts that were missing lighting fixtures while several of the lamp posts were on the verge of degeneration -- a sign of negligence and a lack of maintenance.
Salim Mia, a driver of bus service ‘Roudhro-Turjo’, operating on Patuakhali-Kuakata road, said, “Driving on the bridge at night is really hazardous as we can barely see its outline without any street lamps.”
Accidents often take place on the curves on way to the bridge, said a driver of ‘Mayer Doa’ bus service on the same route.
The authorities need to install lightings on the bridge urgently as lots of tourists travel on this road to get to Kuakata beach, he said, adding that due to poor visibility on the bridge at night, a bus collided head-on with a battery-run rickshaw several years ago, resulting in deaths of a woman and her two children.
The bridge has been seeing a rise in number of travellers not only for the Kuakata beach, but also for a good number of significant ongoing development projects including Payra sea port and several power plants, said Reaz Mridha, owner of a number of buses and a former president of Patuakhali bus owners’ association.
He said number of travellers on the road will increase further and lightings on the bridge should be installed as early as possible, taking everyone’s safety into consideration.
Like three other bridges on the road between Kalapara and Kuakata, solar lightings could be a good option for this bridge also, Reaz added.
Contacted, Jahidul Islam, sub-assistant engineer of RHD in Patuakhali, said, a non-government organisation was supposed to install lightings on the bridge a couple of years ago, but they backed out.
The bridge is an important one and they were giving serious consideration to resolving the matter, he also said.