By Adnan Zain Ul Abidin
The Mulkhow valley in Chitral is a land locked area sandwiched between mountains and Qaqlasht plateau. Though it can be accessed from different directions, but Muzgol bridge is the only easily accessible medium to connect the valley to other parts of Chitral. Its significance can be gauged from the fact that Mulkhow, being the administrative part of the Tehsil Mastuj, depends mostly on Tehsil headquarter, Booni, and district head quarter for all its needs such as health, education, judiciary, etc. The very fact entails thousands of commuters to use the bridge on daily basis to get to the either side to have their needs met. Thus, it acts as a life line for the people of the valley.
While the noise and fury build up in the run-up to the election, it is perhaps worthwhile to highlight that the vast area of Mulkhow valley, Chitral desperately needs to replace the makeshift bridge. The bridge was constructed to provide emergency connectivity to the people of Mulkhow after the devastating flood of 2015, that washed away the then Muzgol bridge. Notwithstanding the passage of three long years, the temporary bridge has not yet been replaced, thus by exposing the lives of thousands of commuters to danger on a regular basis. Though, work on a new concrete bridge was started in 2017, but the snail pace progress of work on the project predicts its completion to be a distant dream.
It is important to mention here that; the present temporary bridge is in a very dilapidated condition owing to overuse and ill treatment of the concerned authorities. The picture shows that, the substandard wood used in the bridge are already worn out and moreover it has developed holes in different areas on the surface. It is even more disturbing to notice that, the concerned people instead of fixing the broken parts with wood, have put load of mud to fill the holes. The weight of the excess mud on the surface may have repercussions, as it happened in the case of Kosht bridge. It is pertinent to mention here that, Kosht bridge too was washed away by the flood. A new makeshift bridge of the same kind was constructed to connect Kosht with other parts of Chitral. Unfortunately, the bridge later collapsed killing three people including a driver with his mini lorry while they were busy fixing the broken parts, because it could not withstand the excessive weight of soil and mud that was constantly put on it.
Another painful reminder of the indifference and incompetency of the concerned department is such that, despite the mishap which claimed three precious lives when the bridge broke in Kosht, the authorities still appear to be unmindful of the possibility of such like incident. It is learnt that, a watchman monitors the flow of traffic on the bridge during day time, ensuring that, heavy loaded vehicles are not allowed to cross it, while no watchdog supervise the bridge during night time. The absence of overseer at night time may add to the strains and consequent susceptibility of the breakdown of the bridge. It is because, the unrestrained drivers do not pay heed to the condition of the bridge and cross heavy loaded vehicles which can have the potential to exhaust the strength of already fragile structure of the bridge and may present another grave situation for the people of Kosht and Mulkhow. Moreover, it is painfully learnt through informed sources that, the contractor of the newly constructed bridge has absconded, leaving the work unattended, which has become a major cause of concern for the dwellers of the area. The reason of his fleeing has not yet been known. Similarly, it has also been observed that, the material used in the so far completed part of the bridge is of low quality and not up to the standard.
The above discussion, I hope will suffice to highlight the significance and the plight of Muzgol bridge. The concerned people are therefore requested to take stern and immediate action to properly repair broken parts of the bridge and also make arrangements to provide round the clock surveillance facility to monitor the flow of traffic as long as the new bridge is not made ready for the traffic. Likewise, inquiry should be initiated against the contractor as soon as possible and he must be brought back by hook or by crook. Similarly, he has to be penalized for the delay and strict instruction should be given to him to complete the project at the earliest while ensuring the quality of the material used. Moreover, the posting of an able and competent son of Chitral, Mr. Maqbool Azam as XEN, C&W is a good omen in this aura of confusion.
The people of the area have high expectations and hope that, things will change in a positive direction under his able stewardship. It is hoped that, the able leadership will take Concrete steps as soon as possible with the aim to mitigate the apprehensions of the people of the valley.