Two narrow bridges in Premtala and Kazirhat areas in the 27-kilometre road connecting Shariatpur town with Jajira's Naodoba were constructed three decades earlier to facilitate the district's communication with the capital. Now, they have become an impediment for that cause.
People concerned said the same road is now being used for a much larger volume of vehicles after the opening of the Padma Bridge. As a result, long tailbacks of vehicles are being formed on both ends of the bridges every day causing suffering for the people.
The bridges are so narrow that two buses cannot pass side by side. Moreover, they have also become risky as the authorities have not done any renovation work for a long time, they said.
According to Shariatpur Roads and Highways Department (RHD) sources, although the construction of two new bridges at the same spots in the road started more than a year ago, the construction work is now stopped due to land acquisition related complications.
A 110 metres long and three metres wide bridge was built in the Premtala area over the Kirtinasha River on the 27 km road in 1991. The other bridge with 50-metre length and three-metre width was built in Kazirhat, Jajira in the same year.
Local people said the condition of both the bridges has been dilapidated with cracks in several places. Rods have come out in some spots of the floor and the railings as the bridges have not been renovated for a long time.
The condition of the Premtala bridge is especially critical as it sways when vehicles pass through it, they said.
The Shariatpur Roads and Highways Department has prohibited the movement of heavy vehicles through the bridges.
Mohammad Ali, bus driver of Shariatpur Super Service Ltd, said, "The Premtala bridge keeps swaying when the bus passes through it. It is very risky. We are forced to travel through the bridge risking our lives as there is no alternative."
Golam Mostafa, from the Domsar area, said, "I cross the bridge several times a day. There are several cracks on the bridge. Although construction work has started for a new bridge, there is no progress."
The government approved a project worth Tk1,682 crore in 2020 to upgrade the Shariatpur-Padma Bridge road to four lanes. The Roads and Highways Department initiated to build a 190m long and 10.3m wide bridge at Premtala and another 150m long and 10.3m wide bridge at Kazirhat.
On 1 April last year, a construction company named Jamil Iqbal Ltd was selected to build the bridges at a cost Tk59 crore. However, the company is working at a snail pace as only two pillars of the two bridges have been built so far.
Md Hasan, project engineer of Jamil Iqbal Ltd, told The Business Standard, "The construction work is stopped now due to land acquisition related complications. We have done only some initial works on the river. Local people are not allowing us to work on the two sides of the river as they have not got the money of compensation for their lands yet."
Bhuiyan Redwanur Rahman, executive engineer of Shariatpur Roads and Highways Department, said "The Premtala bridge is very risky. On the other hand, the Kazirhat bridge is very narrow. We are embarrassed about the condition of both the bridges."
"Land acquisition process for the construction of two bridges could not be completed. As a result, the construction work has been stopped. The two bridges are supposed to be completed by December this year," he added.
Parvej Hasan, deputy commissioner of Shariatpur district, told The Business Standard, "Land acquisition is a complex process. There has been some delay here. We will hand over the land soon to the Roads and Highways Department after disbursing the compensation to the people for their land."