BARAMULLA, Jan 15: It has been more than two years since the devastating floods washed away a major portion of the old wooden bridge of Baramulla town but the lack of funds has delayed the construction work thereby forcing people to risk their lives by boarding overcrowded fishing boats.
In 2014 the bridge, located near fish market and commonly known as SRTC bridge, was declared unsafe after it was damaged in the floods thereby disconnecting nearly forty thousand people of old town Baramulla from the rest of the district.
Locals said every day hundreds of people from the old town risk their lives by boarding overcrowded fishing boats to cross the Jhelum river: “I am a businessman and travels to and fro every day. I have been using the bridge throughout my life. It was the lifeline of our town but the entire area has been cut off now. My Bank, dealer and customers are in new town. I am losing my customers which is affecting my business badly”, Afaq Ahmad, a local from old town Baramulla said.
He further said that nearly 25 fishing boats ferry hundreds of people including his family members to the other side of the river as the alternate roads are not safe to travel after the dusk. “The alternate roads through Chatipatcha Bridge and Cement Bridge are not safe as the places are haunted by drug addicts. How can I let my sister, who has to cross the Jhelum to reach her coaching classes, to travel by these roads? They are not safe,” he added.
General Secretary Traders Federation Baramulla, Tariq Ahmad, said they have made several representations to the Government regarding the construction of the bridge but their pleas have fallen on the deaf ears. “All the political leaders who have visited our town assured us that the bridge would be constructed but despite the passage of two years the construction work has not picked up yet. Look at the famous Fish Market and Iqbal Market, they are deserted as the bulk of customers used to travel through the SRTC Bridge. It has affected our business badly”, he said.
Chief Engineer Roads and Buildings Department, Abdul Hamid when contacted said that the centuries-old bridge is on the priority list of the department but lack of adequate funds has hampered the construction work. “The bridge is the oldest in the town and tops our priority list but there was an early hiccup in the construction process. Initially it was to be repaired for which Government had released funds as well, but after assessments the bridge was found to have outlived. The proposal was made to reconstruct the whole bridge for which we have not received funds”.
He further added that the Rs. 47 lakhs which were released by the Government for the repairs of the bridge is lying with them and would be used for other works. “We cannot waste the money and have to spend it at an appropriate place. Had we started the repair work it would have been a loss to the State exchequer. We will build a new bridge in its place. I will take up the matter with the Government within a few days. People don’t need to worry we are here for them”.