By Adnan Zain Ul Abidin (Morder)
The Mulkhow valley in Chitral is a landlocked area sandwiched between mountains and the Qaqlasht plateau. Though it can be accessed from different directions, Muzgol bridge is the only easily accessible medium to connect the valley to other parts of Chitral.
Its significance can be gauged from the fact that Mulkhow being the administrative part of Mastuj tehsil depends mostly on the tehsil headquarter Booni and district headquarter for all its needs such as healthcare, education, judiciary, etc. The very fact entails thousands of commuters to use the bridge on a daily basis to get to the either side to have their needs met. Thus, it acts as a lifeline for the people of the valley.
While the noise and fury building up in the run-up to the election, it is perhaps worthwhile to highlight that the vast area of Mulkhow valley desperately needs to get the makeshift bridge replaced at the earliest.
The bridge was constructed to provide emergency connectivity to the people of Mulkhow after the devastating flood of 2015 that washed away the then Muzgol bridge. Notwithstanding the passage of three long years, the temporary bridge has not yet been replaced, thus exposing the lives of thousands of commuters to dangers on a regular basis. Though work on a new concrete bridge was started in 2017, the snail’s pace progress of work on the project predicts its completion to be distant dream.
It is important to mention that the present temporary bridge is also in a very dilapidated condition owing to overuse. A visit to the bridge (seek picture) shows that the substandard plunks of wood used in the bridge have already worn out and holes are developed in different parts on the surface of the bridge. It is even more disturbing to notice that the concerned people instead of fixing the broken parts with wood have put load of mud to fill the holes.
The weight of the excess mud on the surface may have repercussions as it happened in the case of Kosht bridge. The Kosht bridge too was washed away by the flood. A new makeshift bridge of the same kind was constructed to connect Kosht with other parts of Chitral. Unfortunately, the bridge later collapsed killing three people, including a driver with his mini-lorry, while they were busy fixing the broken parts because it could not withstand the excessive weight of soil and mud that was constantly put on it.
Another painful reminder of the indifference and incompetency of the concerned department is that despite the mishap which claimed three lives in the Kosht bridge collapse the authorities still appeared to be unmindful of the possibility of another such incident. It is learnt that a watchman monitors the flow of traffic on the bridge during daytime ensuring that heavy loaded vehicles are not allowed to cross it while no watchdog supervises the bridge during nighttime. The absence of an overseer at night may add to the strains and consequent susceptibility of the breakdown bridge. It is because the unrestrained drivers do not pay heed to the condition of the bridge and cross heavy loaded vehicles which can have the potential to exhaust the strength of already fragile structure of the bridge and may present another grave situation for the people of Kosht and Mulkhow.
Moreover, it is painfully learnt through informed sources that, the contractor of the newly constructed bridge has absconded, leaving the work unattended, which has become a major cause of concern for the dwellers of the area. The reason of his fleeing has not yet been known. Similarly, it has also been observed that, the material used in the so far completed part of the bridge is of low quality and not up to the standard.
The concerned people are therefore requested to take stern and immediate action to properly repair broken parts of the bridge and also make arrangements to provide round-the-clock surveillance facility to monitor the flow of traffic as long as the new bridge is not made ready for the traffic.Likewise, an inquiry should be initiated against the contractor as soon as possible and he must be brought back by hook or by crook. Similarly, he has to be penalized for the delay and strict instruction should be given to him to complete the project at the earliest while ensuring the quality of the material used.
Moreover, the posting of an able and competent son of Chitral, Mr. Maqbool Azam as XEN, C&W department, is a good omen in this aura of confusion. The people of the area have high expectations and hope that things will change in a positive direction under his stewardship. It is hoped that concrete steps will soon be taken to mitigate the apprehensions of the people of the valley.