Bhajani locals suffer in lack of bridge over Kandra RiverDuring the monsoon, people have to pay for boat services to cross the river and in winter, they are charged money to use makeshift bridges.
Prem Bahadur Chaudhary of Kailari Rural Municipality was on his way to the municipal office of neighbouring Bhajani Municipality on Friday when he got stopped by some local youths near a makeshift bridge over Kandra River in Karmadebghat. Chaudhary was asked to pay them Rs 20 to cross the bridge.
Chaudhary, who was in a hurry to get to the municipal office, said he did not have even a single rupee on him.
“I pleaded with the youths to let me cross the river but they said I must pay the money to use the bridge. After my repeated requests, they jotted down my name and allowed me to cross the river on condition that I pay the amount on my way back home,” said Chaudhary. “I never thought I would have to pay just to use the makeshift bridge so I was not prepared for it.”
It’s not only the people from neighbouring local units that have to pay to use the bridge. Even the locals of Bhajani Municipality are charged money to cross Kandra River. The contractor of the makeshift bridge in Karmadebghat charges Rs 10 to a bicycle, Rs 20 to a motorcycle and Rs 100 to an autorickshaw.
“We got the contract from the municipality on condition that we provide it with Rs 350,000 for a year. So we have to charge people to manage the amount,” said Bam Bahadur Saud, who was awarded the contract for the makeshift bridge in Karmadebghat.
There is not a single concrete bridge across the Kandra River in the municipality. Bhajani Municipality awards contracts to local people every year to provide boat services to cross the river during the monsoon.
The contract was to provide boat services during the rainy season. However, the contractors built the makeshift bridges in their own initiative after the rainy season and charged people for crossing the river. According to Keshab Bahadur Budha, the chairman of Bhajani Municipality Ward No. 5, due to the absence of a concrete bridge in the area, local residents are facing hardships and are getting fleeced by the contractors.
“The municipality is well aware about the contractors charging hefty amounts from the villagers to cross the river. But the local government is reluctant to monitor the contractors and take action against them,” said Chhaya Devkota, the deputy mayor of Bhajani Municipality. She, however, said that the municipality did not have any immediate plan to address the issue.
The people’s representatives have received heavy criticism for ignoring the problems of the people.
“The municipality does not understand the hardships that the villagers are facing. It allows contractors to collect money from the locals to cross the river,” said Khushiram Chaudhary of Bhajani-5. He argued that the local unit should take responsibility for the bridge so that the locals could use it free of cost.
Kandra River is one of the major rivers that flow in Malawar region of Kailali district. The river inundates hundreds of houses and hectares of cultivable land in the Bhajani area every year.
“The river causes heavy damage during the rainy season. And we have to pay to use boat services in the monsoon and the makeshift bridge during the winter to cross the river. The government should construct a bridge in the area and help mitigate the risk of floods,” demanded Khusiram.
Nine years ago, the government had awarded a contract to Lama Sherpa Biruwa JV to construct a motorable bridge along the Postal Highway. The bridge’s construction was supposed to be completed within two years at the cost of Rs 40 million. But only 55 percent of the work has been completed so far.
“The contract was extended several times,” said Padam Bahadur Madai, an engineer of the Postal Highway Project. “The contractor has assured us that they would complete the bridge’s construction by the end of the current fiscal year.”