CHITRAL: Bridges in Chitral pose threat to locals and tourists alike. The bridges made of timber in the far-flung parts of Upper Chitral have not been maintained or repaired for decades.
This year alone around half a dozen bridges have collapsed resulting in not only cutting the vital link between small villages and Chitral city but also endangering the lives of thousands of tourists and local residents.
Traditionally local communities make linking bridges in all parts of Upper and Lower Chitral using timber which was easily available in the past. Timber is considered very strong and durable but it also needs regular inspections and replacement to keep it working due to overloaded vehicles.
“Nearly all the bridges on small nullah and steams in Upper Chitral are made of timber because timber is easily available locally and local communities could make bridge of it without looking to the government to do this job,” said a local resident Din Muhammad while talking to The Express Tribune.
“In the past local communities were more efficient because timber was easily available and bridges were repaired on a yearly basis on self-help basis. There were very few trucks and vehicles back then. Now timber is not easily available and the repairs are time consuming and costly,” he said, adding that due to the lack of repairs and proper maintenance fatal accidents were happening without inviting much attention.
A few days ago a wooden bridge linking Garam Chishma with Chitral city suddenly collapsed when an overloaded truck was crossing it. It left three injured as luckily the nullah was not deep enough. The truck was loaded with locally produced potatoes and was on its way to Lahore. As a result of this thousands of tourists were left stranded.
A few months back another wooden bridge collapsed when a Mazda Bus was crossing it.
Locals blame that in addition to collapsing, wooden bridges often cause tragic accidents because most of the time these bridges lack railings.
They also blamed that the Gram Chishma bridge was decades old as it was previously used somewhere else and then shifted to the current location and National Highway Authority (NHA) didn’t take care of it.
They demanded of the government to allocate funds for the construction of concrete bridges in Upper and Lower Chitral which will not only save local forests but also prevent mishaps and facilitate tourists too.