Bridge construction over Kamala river in Bansbittaghat left incomplete for a decadeIn absence of a bridge, villagers in Siraha and Dhanusha rely on boats to cross the river.
The construction of a bridge over Kamala river in Bansbittaghat, Siraha, started a decade ago but is yet to be completed. In the absence of a bridge, around 600 people living in 15 villages in Siraha and Dhanusha have to rely on boats to cross the river even during the rainy season when the water level in the river reaches danger level.
A majority of the locals in Siraha Municipality are farmers who cross over to Dhanusha everyday to go to their paddy fields.
Sanjaya Yadav and Chhedi Mukhiya, who are in their fifties, are residents of Bansbitta in Ward No. 6 of Siraha Municipality. They are the only two local boatmen in the area and have been rowing their boats across the river since they were young adults. For five months a year, from mid-June to mid-November, they wait for passengers at Bansbittaghat.
“Since most of our passengers are farmers, they pay us in paddy. Each farmer who uses our services pays us with 20 kgs of paddy for ferrying them across the river and back for five months,” said Yadav. But the boatmen charge Rs 50 to load a motorcycle onto their boats and Rs 20 for a bicycle.
“It’s risky to row our boats in the river during the monsoon but the locals from Siraha have to go to Dhanusha everyday to work in their fields,” said Mukhiya. “Since there is no bridge over the river, we ferry them across the river even during the rainy season.”
According to Mukhiya, six individuals have died in boat accidents in the river in the last decade.
Meanwhile, the locals of Tetariya, a rural village at Kamala Municipality Ward No. 3 in Dhanusha, frequent Siraha, the district headquarters of Siraha district, to purchase daily essentials.
“We go to Siraha every other day to buy essentials since it’s the nearest marketplace from our village,” Indradevi Das, a local woman of Tetariya, told the Post. “We have to pay Rs 50 per person to the boatman to cross the river. They say they will build the bridge but it’s been a decade and the construction is still incomplete.”
Since the boats are available only till 5pm, Das says that the locals in her village face difficulties when faced with emergencies.
“If we have a medical emergency, we have to take an alternate route to Siraha district headquarters via Jaynagar in India. There are no health facilities in our village,” said Das.
According to the Postal Road Project Office in Janakpur, Pappu-Lumbini JV had agreed to construct a 470 metre-long bridge in Bansbittaghat at a total cost of Rs 249.1 million nearly a decade ago. According to the agreement signed on June 14, 2011, the bridge should have been completed on December 15, 2014. But by the end of December 2014, Pappu-Lumbini JV had only managed to complete 30 percent of the work.
Since then, the project’s deadline has been extended several times, and yet the bridge is nowhere near complete. Former lawmaker Ram Chandra Jha claimed that Pappu-Lumbini JV is also guilty of altering the original design of the bridge.
According to the agreement, the depth of the bridge pillar should be somewhere between 23 and 29 metres; however, the pillars of the under-construction bridge are only 17 metres deep.
“Pappu-Lumbini JV has not only violated the deadline but has also altered the design of the project. The company has deceived the government and the people,” he said.
However, an official at the Postal Road Project Office said, “The office scrapped the agreement with Pappu after eight years of the contract deadline. Only Lumbini Builders, one half of the JV, has been working on the bridge project since last year.”
The bridge project connects the districts of Siraha and Dhanusha with the Postal Highway.