SWAT: The zigzagged and narrow road that leads to Bishbanr Village might have served its purpose when it was built decades back. But now dilapidated and even more foreboding, the track poses a multitude of problems to its villagers, and also to those living in the dozens of adjoining hamlets.
The 15-kilometre road connects Swat’s main town Mingora to Bishbanr, which is a remote hilly area with an estimated population of 15,000. The residents have complained that a 7.5-km patch of the road is so thin and crammed with steep ascents that it is impossible for a normal vehicle to cross.
“Only four-wheel-drive vehicles are capable of climbing the steep slopes, and that too if the driver is experienced,” Tahir Khan, a local resident of Bishbanr told the Express Tribune. He said that due to the “dreadful” condition of the road, transporters in Mingora charge as high as Rs100 from each passenger for the trip. “If the road was in good condition we will not have to pay more than Rs15 for the journey,” Khan added.
The village has plenty of orchards where they cultivate a number of different fruits and vegetables, but with the only road leading to the village dilapidated only 25 per cent of the produce makes to the markets. Khan said that the fruits get rotten before the villagers can afford to transport them, adding that the ones villagers manage to transport are sold at higher rates to make up for the fares.
Another resident of the village, Shaukat Ali, said that many people have died while making their journey on the route. He said a lot of people died when their vehicles slid off the narrow track and fell, adding that some locals died on their way to a hospital in Mingora because of the sheer time it took to make the journey. Ali said that due to fears of vehicles sliding off the route and falling, the villagers carry their patients on charpoys till where the road is safe for vehicles.
Ali said the villagers have demanded their representatives in the national and provincial assemblies to reconstruct the road, “but no one pays heed to our woes”. He added that when the road is damaged by rains, the villagers patch it up with dirt, but these measures are temporary.
When contacted, the area’s Member of Provincial Assembly said that Rs120 million have been approved for the reconstruction of the road, adding that work on the route will be started soon.
Separately, locals have demanded the authorities to construct middle and high schools for both girls and boys in Bishbanr. They have also demanded that the village’s only dispensary be operation throughout the day.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 18th, 2012.
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