In Swat, the population of the area is in dire straits due to the delay in the construction of the rain drain bridge at Kala Dhera on Takhtaband Road from GT Road to Naweeklay. The construction of this bridge began in December 2022 and was supposed to be completed within eight months, but a year has passed, and the bridge does not show any signs of being ready. The purpose of this bridge over the seasonal stream at Khod in Swat is to provide an alternative route for vehicles carrying vegetables, fruits, and other supplies between Swat and other nearby cities, bypassing the centre of Mingora city.
The construction of this bridge is not happening for the first time; rather, it has existed for almost one and a half decades. When Swat faced militancy and terrorism, a bomb blast severely damaged this bridge and rendered it non-functional in 2009.
At that time, the government, with the assistance of the military, constructed a steel bridge over the canal, but it could not support a weight of more than 40 tons. Due to the passage of heavily loaded trucks, the bridge's plates had to be changed frequently, and this process continued for several years until it eventually became useless.
"When this bridge became non-functional, authorities issued instructions to build a new, sturdy bridge to replace it. Construction work formally began in the last month of 2022. A temporary road was constructed over the canal for small vehicles to facilitate the local population during this time. This road serves as a passageway for various vehicles, including trucks, for transporting goods. However, since this road is unpaved, it frequently becomes impassable during rainy or damp conditions, resulting in the closure of traffic in both directions."
Khurram Shahzad, a tourist who travelled to this area from Islamabad with his family, expresses that the unfinished road's traffic congestion leads to at least a 25-minute delay at this spot. This creates significant difficulties and inconveniences for families with children who visit for tourism.
The delay in the construction of this bridge is also impacting students from schools and colleges in the area. Dr Khan Bahadur, the Vice Principal of Mingora Degree College situated on Takhtaband Road, highlights that the bridge's absence is impeding the education of college students.
"This is one of the best colleges in the province, so we cannot compromise on discipline. We have nearly 3,000 students in our education, and almost forty per cent of them have to pass through this road every day. Whenever it rains, due to the closure of Takhtaband Road, children have to choose an alternative route, which is quite far, and they often get stuck due to heavy traffic, which results in them not being able to reach the college on time."
In this college, a large number of female students usually use rickshaws to reach the college. Due to the absence of the bridge, these female students have to pay higher fares when using alternative routes.
On the same road, a religious centre called Bajjah is located, where a large number of people gather every Thursday night (Friday night), and they face difficulties due to traffic congestion on the alternative temporary route.
The construction delay of the bridge on Takhtaband Road has also caused great distress to businessmen like others. On the other side of the bridge are marble factories whose owners complain that the road's condition is causing them financial crises.
A factory owner has expressed concern that the government initially provided a six-month timeline for the construction of this bridge. However, as of now, not even two pillars have been erected. At the current rate of progress, there are doubts that the bridge will be constructed within the next five years.
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Imad Khan, the engineer from the construction company responsible for the ongoing work on the bridge, clarified that some members of the public may believe there are problems with the construction work or administrative issues with the authorities. However, he emphasised that this is not the case.
The construction work on the bridge is progressing, and such projects naturally require time to complete. Furthermore, government supervision is in place, and occasional temporary pauses may occur due to fund-related delays.
The meeting took place at Commissioner House in Saidu Sharif, presided over by the then Deputy Commissioner, Junaid Khan. Attendees included Assistant Commissioner Babuzai, Executive Engineer C&W Swat, and the contractors involved. The meeting focused on ensuring full funding for the bridge construction by June 30, 2023.
District officials have reported that the estimated cost of this bridge is around 100 million rupees, with approximately 50 million rupees' worth of work already completed. They are exerting all possible efforts to expedite the construction of this bridge.
Published on 24 Oct 2023