Rivers without bridgesThe govt move to replace wire bridges is a welcome step, but it should walk the talk
Tuin or wire bridges are an indigenous technology and one of the most common methods for crossing rivers in Nepal. People and school-going children hauling themselves across fast-flowing rivers by cable ropeways and wire bridges, however, can be a dangerous mode of transport. Every year, dozens of people, including school children, lose their lives or injure themselves while using these single rope bridges, particularly in western and mid-western Nepal. Nearly three years after the government’s announcement that all tuins would be replaced by suspension bridges, the Oli administration is moving to remove the perilous wire bridges which is a reason for cheer.
Prime Minister Oli, during his first stint as head of government in 2015, had pledged to replace all tuins by suspension bridges. The government had earmarked Rs3.25 billion to replace the tuins within two years. Out of the 131 tuins in operation in the remote parts of the country, 105 have been replaced by suspension bridges since the government’s decision on October 12, 2015. The remaining 26 are expected to be completed within this year. The government has allocated Rs3.11 billion this fiscal year to fund its plan to replace all the remaining tuins over the next three years.
An unofficial count suggests that at least 100 Nepalis die every year while crossing raging rivers using wire bridges. Based on traditional technology and prototypes, tuin bridges are a means of transportation for many in rural areas of Nepal. Owing to the lack of suspension and concrete bridges, local folks are compelled to use tuin bridges to get across rivers.
In remote places of the country, many children drop out of school because, more often than not, getting an education means risking your life—you have to attend school daily by clinging to a rope with the churning waters below. Moreover, lack of bridges means livelihood options are limited for rural people as they cannot transport their agricultural produce to market. People have lost their arms and some their fingers, and some have sustained scalp injuries while others have suffered broken spines after falling from these cable bridges during treacherous river crossings.
Granted, the country’s rugged mountainous terrain and scattered settlements makes construction of bridges and roads often extremely expensive and challenging. Yet, this should not be the reason for any government to not resign this life-threatening mode of transport to history. The government of the day should keep its current momentum going, diligently collect the data it is seeking and then act at the earliest towards constructing the required infrastructure. The citizenry is rightly awaiting prosperity eagerly. There is no other way to achieve it than by walking the talk.