Seven deadly bridges in four unions
As many as seven concrete bridges built on iron infrastructure have become the cause of great distress for about 50 thousand people in four unions of Amtali upazila under Barguna.
Located in Atharogachhia, Haldia, Chawra and Gulishakhali unions of the upazila, the bridges are integral part of road communications in 19 villages of the unions.
Out the seven, two bridges have collapsed while five others turned impassable after huge holes developed on those.
The bridge on Gazipur canal in Atharogachhia union collapsed early this month after four of its pillars gave way, said locals.
The bridge -- built by Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) in 2008 -- was the primary means of communications for about 15 thousand inhabitants of eight villages in the union, they also said.
"Our sufferings since then have been inexplicable," said Humayun Kabir, a villager from Gazipur village.
In 2011, when LGED built the bridge on Chawra canal near Haldia Hat Government Primary School in Haldia union at a cost of Tk 60 lakh, it came as a blessing for about 10 thousand residents in Haldia, Gurudal, North Taktabunia and South Taktabunia villages.
But after large concrete chunks, as wide as its entire width, fell off the bridge in May this year, communications of the villagers with the upazila headquarters have become extremely difficult.
Shanu Mollah, a farmer from Haldia village, said, "Movement of vehicles over the bridge has become impossible after that. I used to sell rice, lentil and other agricultural goods at Amtali market, but I can't do so anymore."
Especially, taking pregnant women and critical patients to hospitals has become extremely difficult, he also said.
Another bridge on the same canal was built by LGED about the same time in front of Radhi house in Chawra union. It has also turned hazardous since December last year when large holes developed in the middle of the bridge. Nearly ten thousand people in four villages now do not have any other option but use the risky bridge.
In May this year, the third bridge that collapsed on Chawra canal has been the one near Kaunia Ibrahim Academy in Chawra union. With vehicular moment on the bridge suspended ever since, it inflicted immense sufferings on about eight thousand people in Kaunia, Chalabhanga, Majihasdanga and East Mahishdanga villages.
In early February this year, a large section of the bridge on Loda canal, near Hafezia Madrasa in the same union, gave way while a heavily loaded light vehicle was crossing it. The bridge has remained off limits to the public since then, but no steps were taken to repair it.
The bridge on the same canal near Loda Government School in Chawra union is in a similar state. Even though concrete from large sections of the bridge fell off, there has been no initiative to repair it. Several thousand residents of Loda village now have no other option but risk their lives on the risky bridge.
In Gulishakhali union, the bridge over Chila canal is also in a state of disrepair. A ten to twelve-foot section in the middle of the bridge gave way in 2019 when a cargo-laden tractor trolley was crossing it. The sufferings endured by around two thousand villagers have been unimaginable, as the authorities did not seem to have felt the need to repair it.
Asked, Abdullah Al Mamun, an engineer of LGED in Amtali upazila, said they have plans to replace the seven damaged bridges with girder bridges and they already sought necessary funds from the authorities for the purpose. "After the fund is allocated, work will commence as early as possible."