Govt apathy, ‘sluggish’ World Bank keep people waiting for bridge repairs

Govt apathy, ‘sluggish’ World Bank keep people waiting for bridge repairs
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Key Pulwama-Shopian linkages far from completion

PULWAMA/SHOPIAN: The state government’s clear lack of concern accompanied by cumbersome and time-consuming paper work required by the Word Bank has meant that dozens of villages in the twin districts of Shopian and Pulwama in South Kashmir suffer in the absence of two major bridges that were washed away by the floods of 2014.
The World Bank’s releasing funds has been as slow-moving as their paper work with only 10 percent being released so far, that too on only one of the two bridges.
The Trenz Bridge in Shopian district over Ranbiar Nallah and Rohmoo Bridge in Pulwama district over Romshi Nallah were among many other major bridges washed away by the unprecedented floods of September 2014.
Apart from connecting dozens of villages to each other, these bridges formed major inter-district links between Shopian-Pulwama and Pulwama-Budgam in that order.
The government, as per sources, slept over the apathy of the general public for around three years after the floods ravaged the structures.
Only in May 2017 did the state government take notice and announce that the World Bank will be funding the projects.
The costs of the bridges were put at Rs 34.5 crore for the Trenz Bridge and at Rs 21.5 crore for the Rohmoo Bridge.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti visited the sites in May 2017 and the announcements for the World Bank funding were made.
The work on the bridges was finally commenced in September 2017 and has since lingered on, with the World Bank releasing only 10 percent of the payment for just one bridge.
The executing agency, Jammu and Kashmir Projects Construction Corporation (JKPCC), acknowledges the slow pace of work and attributes it to the trickling of funds from the World Bank.
“We have so far received only 10 percent of the funds for one of the bridges and nothing for the other,” Deputy General Manager (DGM) JKPCC Masood Ahmad Gangoo told Kashmir Reader.
He said that the paper work with the World Bank took more than seven months.
“We did not wait for the World Bank approval however. We started the work and have been paying contractors from our own funds,” Gangoo said, adding that the projects were subsequently approved by the World Bank.
However, he said, the funds have been very slow in coming, affecting the pace of work.
“It will be another year-and-a-half before both the bridges are completed, provided the funds are released in time,” he said.
The people, meanwhile, continue to suffer in the absence of these major bridges.
“We were really happy at the prospect of there being an end to our miseries finally. But it has been a year since, and the bridge is nowhere near completion,” Ghulam Muhammad Lone, a resident of hpora village in Shopian district, told Kashmir Reader.
Residents from other nearby villages said that the 300 metre Trenz Bridge had been the easiest and quickest route to the neighboring Pulwama district.
“We are more dependent on Pulwama district for health and other facilities than we are on our own district. The absence of this bridge has hurt us a lot,” the residents said.
Similarly the Rohmoo Bridge connects Pulwama district with Budgam via Charar-e-Sharif and Pakherpora. People in these areas continue to suffer as well.