Bridges are no longer sacrosanct

Bridge
There was a traveller recently on the road from Kandahar to Kabul – a relatively new road, built by Turkish engineers in the last decade. In fact, the road is a rebuilt version of the original road, built by American engineers in the time of King Zahir Shah. But the original road was destroyed, mainly by heavy Soviet tanks plying on the road during the 1980s.

Noticing that bridge after bridge on the new road had been destroyed, the traveller commented, “We used to live by the adage – pul-o-saraka jor kuneed, masjida weran kuneed – you may destroy a mosque in order to build a bridge or a road. Now neither bridges nor roads – not even mosques – are sacrosanct.”

Nothing epitomises the sorry state of Afghanistan over recent times – or indeed the changing values of some of some of those who live there –  than the state of its bridges. The Behsood Bridge is a case in point.

The Behsood bridge, spanning the Kabul River in the province of Nangarhar, is a vital link connecting the districts of Behsood, Kheewa and Dara Noor, as well as the provinces of Kunar and Nooristan to Jalalabad City. With such an important geographical and strategic location, the bridge has come under attack several times over the last few years.

Most recently, the bridge was attacked by a yet unknown source, when an American convoy was passing over it. The attack resulted in serious damage to parts of the bridge and residents now fear that if it is not soon repaired, the whole bridge could collapse.

The bridge is in constant use by people from several different areas connecting with the bridge. Providing such an essential route, PACT Radio spoke to people to find out more about the bridge and the potential effects of the damage.

For fifty year old Javed Rahimi living in Kheewa, the bridge helps him to make a living, “I own a shop in Jalalabad to which the bridge connects and there is no alternative to get there from here. This bridge is essential, as it connect so many different places and this is why hundreds, maybe even thousands of people pass by the bridge daily.”

Sayed Moosa, also from Kheewa faces similar circumstances. “I own a cheese business in Jalalabad. I am able to cross the river daily to get to work thanks to the Behsood bridge.” Those from Jalalabad also fear the potential consequences of losing the bridge, as milkman Salihuddin explains, “I bring milk from Behsood daily to sell, so if the bridge is not accessible, my business too will stop.”

Along with those working, ordinary people use the bridge often, like student Ahmad. “I come to the city via this bridge, so that I can study there.”

Sayed remembers before the bridge was built and the difficulties they faced crossing the river, “When there was no bridge, we used to cross the river on boats, but that was so risky. Thirty or thirty-five years back after it was built, the bridge helped to bring so many facilities and opportunities for people.”

The bridge has faced attacks before as Javed recalls, “I remember around twenty years ago, the bridge was damaged following a bomb and now the same thing has happened.” Similar attacks have been taking place over the past few years, but the recent attack seems to be the worst yet. “The government is not taking notice of this issue – it should be a big priority for them,” says Sayed.

Salahuddin believes that certain restrictions need to be placed on the use of the bridge, “Heavy vehicles should be banned from crossing the bridge, so that it will last longer. It should be repaired as soon as possible.”

While people fear the worst, the Behsood Bridge is still under constant use, despite the damage that has been caused to it. Only time will tell how much longer the bridge will last in its present precarious state. Everyone PACT Radio/The Saba Story talked to on the subject would agree that bridges, like roads and mosques, should remain sacrosanct from the savages of war. But due to their strategic location, bridges seem to be the first thing to be attacked.


1 Comment »