Repair the 147 unusable bridges in Barguna
For a government that takes great pride in the massive development work it has undertaken all over the country during its tenure, there are too many stories of dilapidated infrastructures, institutional neglect and public suffering. In Barguna, for instance, as many as 147 out of 200 bridges are now unusable due to a lack of maintenance and repair, according to a recent report. The 200 bridges were constructed by the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) in 1997-98, but no repairs have taken place over the past two and a half decades. Some of the bridges collapsed years ago, while others have been severely damaged due to various cyclones or their parts being stolen over the years. Meanwhile, some bridges have partially collapsed. But the locals, including school children, are still using them at great risk to themselves.
It is inconceivable that the various local authorities, under successive governments, have allowed so many bridges to wither away, without taking any initiative to repair them. In the process, they have made life difficult and dangerous for the local communities. In Barguna Sadar upazila, for instance, hundreds of auto-rickshaws, motorcycles, and pedestrians are still using a bridge that was broken in the middle two years ago. Another bridge in Mahishdanga village of Amtali caved in and stayed in this state for two years, but the residents still used it for lack of an alternative. At least 20,000 people of 10 villages, including students of eight institutions, are suffering as a result. When asked, the executive engineer of LGED in Barguna said he "hoped" tenders for these bridges would be offered by the end of this year, which means it is anybody's guess when such a project would even be initiated, and how long it would take to complete the bridges. What are the local communities to do in the meantime?
It is evident that the fruits of mega-development are not reaching the far corners of the country. We need localised development that is attuned to people's needs and sufferings. We need to prioritise repair and maintenance of the existing community infrastructures, no matter how unglamorous such work may seem compared to initiating megaprojects in a given area. We urge the LGRD ministry to take urgent steps to address the communities' concerns, without wasting any more time with bureaucratic hurdles.