The far-flung hamlets across the Swat River are in dire need of bridges to connect them with the rest of the valley.
While lower Swat has somewhat recovered from the havoc wrecked by the 2010 floods, the upper parts of the valley seem to be awaiting a miracle for restoration of lost infrastructure.
The floods washed away more than 45 major bridges in addition to hundreds of small ones, leaving hundreds of thousands of people stranded.
Although a few makeshift bridges and cable cars have been installed, most hamlets remain cut off from the rest of the world.
“We have knocked at every door seeking help in installing a bridge to our hamlet but all our requests fell on deaf ears,” said Gul Nabi, who belongs to a remote village in Mankyal valley. Due to absence of a bridge, he has to cover a distance of 10 kilometres to get things of daily use.
At many places, local businessmen have installed manually-run cable cars to cross the Swat River. These rides have their own risks, with almost no safety measures.
“The cable cars have solved our problem to a great extent but the ride is certainly unsafe and many people have fallen in the river in darkness,” said Attaur Rehman, a resident of Kalam.
In addition, manual operation doesn’t allow cable cars to be used for transportation of goods, which specially affects rural women.
Zareena, 55, said, “The biggest problem is taking goods to the other side of the river. I have no men at home so I have to ask other people for help.
“If there was a bridge instead, it would be much easier for people to conduct their businesses and I wouldn’t be dependent on others.”
Moreover, the unreliability of cable cars poses a serious risk in dealing with an emergency situation.
“Every time an emergency occurs it feels as if we are dealing with a disaster. Taking patients on the cable car isn’t possible and we have to take a four-hour route to get to the other side of the river,” said Subhan Ali, a resident of a village near Kalam.
The people also appealed to the non-governmental organisations working in the area to provide assistance in installing small bridges to bring an end to their miseries.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 5th, 2012.
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