5,000 residents in Handwara struggle with fatalities, disruption due to lack of bridge

Reshwari Handwara resident crossing the unsafe wooden bridge over Mawar stream on Tuesday. -Excelsior/Aabid Nabi
Reshwari Handwara resident crossing the unsafe wooden bridge over Mawar stream on Tuesday. -Excelsior/Aabid Nabi

Suhail Bhat
SRINAGAR, July 9: The absence of a proper bridge in the village of Reshwari, located in the Handwara area of north Kashmir’s Kupwara district, has resulted in numerous fatalities and significantly disrupted the lives of nearly 5000 residents.
Located approximately nine kilometers from Handwara town, Reshwari relies on the Mawar stream, which becomes perilous from April to July due to glacial melt. The picturesque landscape of Reshwari belies the harsh reality faced by its residents. The makeshift bridge across the Mawar stream, often unsafe, has tragically claimed lives and livestock. Each year, several residents, especially children, lost their lives attempting to cross the swollen stream, while countless cattle drowned.
Bashir Ahmad, 45, painfully recalled losing his son while crossing the stream on the way to school. “I lost my son when he slipped into the stream. His body was never found. Many families have suffered similar losses,” he lamented.
Ahmad added that the community lives in constant fear, with parents hesitant to send their children to school and expectant mothers often having to be carried across the stream on shoulders due to the impossibility of vehicle access.
Last week, another resident, Shamim, said tragedy struck again when a 7-year-old girl slipped and fell into the stream. Her body has yet to be recovered, leaving her family devastated and underscoring the urgent need for a safer crossing. “The girl is from a poor family. In fact, all the people here work as laborers and therefore cannot accompany their children to school. For them, it is safer to not send them to school,” he said, adding that constructing a proper bridge is the only demand of the residents.
For decades, the residents have pleaded for a proper bridge. Despite numerous visits from political leaders and officials, no concrete action has been taken. “We have been demanding the construction of this bridge for decades, yet our requests remain unmet,” another resident said. He added that the community hopes that the authorities will finally respond to their urgent need, ending the cycle of tragedy and hardship caused by the Mawar stream.
Acknowledging the issue, Additional Deputy Commissioner of Handwara, Aziz Ahmad Rather, said that the Road and Buildings Department has identified areas in need of bridges, prioritizing locations with unsafe wooden structures. “When it rains and streams swell, these bridges become dangerous, often sweeping away cattle or even humans. Addressing these needs is crucial for providing safe connectivity,” he said.
Rather urged members of the District Development Council to allocate funds for the bridge, emphasizing the importance of preventing further loss of life.