Three months after the completion of a bridge that connects Shamozo with the rest of Swat, locals still have to spend an additional hour and twice the amount for fuel to make the journey via a detour.
The 447.5 metre-long Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Bridge was built by the Frontier Works Organisation to replace the one washed away by the 2010 floods.
Completed three months ago with funding from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as part of the quick impact projects, the bridge was a sight for sore eyes for the 50,000 people stranded across the Swat River.
“The bridge is ready, I don’t understand why it’s taking them so long to open it,” said an impatient jeweller, Gul Nawab, who daily has to travel an additional 45km to reach Parrai village – a 4km trip when the bridge over Swat River was intact.
A taxi driver from Parrai, Syed Iqbal, said everyone was excited when the bridge was completed with the generous aid of the UAE government, but ironically they were not allowed to cross it.
“The bridge is our lifeline. We have to spend much more time and money to go about our work because we use the alternative route,” he added.
“The closure of the bridge has seriously inconvenienced patients and their families,” said Rizwanullah, a social activist from Parrai.
He said that many people died while being taken to Barikot or Mingora in critical condition because they could not survive the long journey.
Apart from the fact that there is only a sub-divisional hospital in Shamozo and most people have to travel across the Swat River for treatment, the bridge is also important for the majority of girl students who are enrolled in schools across the river in Barikot.
The groundbreaking of the bridge was held on December 20, 2010, by Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and a UAE envoy Ali Saif Sultan al Awani.
According to Swat Media Centre Spokesperson Col Arif, the bridge will be opened for the public after it has been handed over by the donor. He did not give the exact date, but he indicated that it would be sometime soon.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th, 2012.
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