Sonakata Tengragiri Ecopark: Bridge works remain halted for over a year
The Sonakata Tengragiri Ecopark has seen a decline in number of tourists due to the suspension of construction works on the bridge linking the area to Barguna's Taltali upazila's FakirHat Canal for one and a half year.
According to the sources at the upazila's LGED office, the works were initiated early in 2021 under a Tk 7 crore project. Following a tender, the project was allotted to Amir Engineering Corporation of Barishal.
The contractors have already completed the physical works for 48 metres (24 metres from each end) of the 72-metre girder bridge. The constructed bridge is 7.5 metres wide and 10 feet tall above the water level.
However, six months after the works began, the local fishermen and the Planning Commission objected to the structure's design as they believed the height of the bridge was too low, making it difficult for boats to ply beneath it.
Mosharef Hossain, forest officer of Chakhina Bit, informed of the declining number of tourists at the park.
Earlier, around 150-200 tourists visited the park each day. The crowd was even bigger on weekends. However, the number has dropped to only 15-20 visitors per day, he added.
"With the bridge works being put on hold indefinitely, we have to take small dinghy boats to move to and from the park. This comes with great risks," said Rahima Begum, a student who was visiting the park.
Hossain Hawlader, a hotel owner in Fakir Hat, said their business had been facing losses since the construction work was stopped.
"There used to be a small iron bridge. However, that was demolished before the contractors started working on the new bridge. The water route is the only link between the two ends now," he added.
The area is home to numerous fishermen who have to visit the sea on a daily basis to earn their daily living, informed Abdus Salam, a former union parishad member.
"The fishing boats usually take shelter in the canal during natural calamities like storms or rain. With the bridge being just 10 feet high, boats won't be able to ply beneath it during high-tides," he added.
Ripon Mallik, a fisherman in the area, echoed the same.
Contacted, contractor Amir Hossain said the bridge's design was made by LGED.
"We had followed LGED's instructions. I don't know why the objections came after a significant portion of the construction was completed," he added.
Russel Imtiaz, engineer at the upazila's LGED office, said the height of the bridge has to be extended by another 8-10 feet using steel structures.
"An Army Engineering Corporation team visited the site in February this year and promised to come up with a solution. The work will resume once the new plans are approved by the authority," he added.