One and half years have gone past since a bridge over the River Kirtinasha close to Vojeshwar river port in Shariatpur's Naria upazila was constructed, but villagers are still suffering because approach roads connecting to the bridge have not been built yet.
The bridge that was built at a cost of Tk9.8 crore to ease suffering of people in Naria and Zajira upazilas is now lying idle.
The Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) in the district paid the bill to two contractors of the bridge project although they did not build the connecting roads on both sides of the bridge – in Gourail village in Vojeshwar union beside the river port, and Char Vojeshwar village in Japsha union - owing to complications in land acquisition.
The LGED later revised the project that started in 2016 and discarded the approach road construction plan, according to the department.
Following the revised plan, the contractors named Kamarjani Brozen and Anowara built a 10-metre box culvert and a 80-metre embankment on both sides of the river instead of constructing the roads.
Later, on 18 July 2019, the LGED started building the link roads at a cost of Tk13.21 crore under a new project.
Although the link roads are supposed to be completed by June 2021, only 50% of the work has so far been completed.
A 162-metre link road from Gourail to Mosura village's Dr Jalil Bari area, and another 303-metre link road through Char Vojeshwar village to Japsha Kheya Ghat were supposed to be built.
But there appeared a problem in acquiring land in Char Vojeshwar. The land was private property and owners were unwilling to give the land to the government, according to Md Sahabuddin Khan, Naria upazila engineer.
Md Sahabuddin said, "The construction of the connecting roads could not be done as the scheduled time of completing the project was over, and there were complications over land acquisition for building the roads."
"Due to the complications in land acquisition, the LGED started making the link roads using RE Wall technology. This is a new technology which makes it possible to build roads using less space. It is taking time to finish the work as it is a new technology. We are not wasting time. Hopefully, the work will be completed soon," he said.
If the 99-metre long bridge opens, residents of at least 150 villages in Naria and Zajira upazilas will be able to go to Shariatpur town, Dhaka, and other places easily. It will also cost less to transport agricultural goods.
Bonnya Begum from Gourail village in Vojeshwar union said they have not benefitted from the bridge because it has no approach roads. They still have to cross the river by boat, and after 9 pm at night, there are no boats, she said.
Patients suffer the most, she added.
Arif Bepari, an auto-rickshaw driver from the Japsha union, said, "We now have to travel a long distance to go to Shariatpur town. If the bridge opens, the distance will come down to eight kilometres. Right now, without the bridge, our vehicles often get damaged as the roads we use are dilapidated."
Shamim Hossain was waiting for a boat at the Vojeshwar river port Ghat (terminal) with his motorbike to go to Char Vojeshwar. He said accidents were very common there while crossing the river, especially, during the monsoon.
People still have to risk their lives as there is no alternative now, he said. But if the bridge opened, it would take only five minutes to go to Japsha union, he added.