11 low-height bridges ‘killing’ rivers in Jashore
After the Bhairab river, 11 low-height bridges are being constructed on seven other rivers in Jashore. Vessel movement under these bridges could be disrupted during the monsoon due to low height. Two government agencies are constructing these bridges without any clearance from the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA).
Earlier, a total of 51 unplanned bridges and culverts were constructed on the Bhairab river. Prothom Alo ran a report on this on 15 July 2021.
As per the rule, the height of the bridge should be 16 feet and 25 feet from beneath the girder of the bridge to water level for some of these seven rivers. However, the height of the 11 bridges, which are being constructed on these seven rivers, ranges from 4.59 feet to 11.50 feet.
The Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) is constructing 10 of these 11 bridges and the remaining one is being constructed under the Western Bangladesh Bridge Improvement Project of the Roads and Highways Department. According to the provision on controlling the construction of installations on inland waterways and embankments, a navigational clearance from the BIWTA is mandatory for any sort of construction on the waterways, including overhead power lines and bridges.
However, the LGED and the Roads and Highways Department didn’t take any clearance from the BIWTA. The objections from the Bangladesh River Commission and BIWTA over the height of these bridges were ignored.
Mohammad Ashraf Uddin, director of the river conservancy and pilotage department of BIWTA’s west delta branch in Khulna, said there are obligations to get navigational clearance in case of construction of a bridge. However, it was ignored during the construction of 11 bridges in Jashore. These low-height bridges will disrupt the movement of small and medium vessels.
Speaking to Prothom, Iqbal Kabir Zahid, advisor of Bhairab River Restoration Movement, said, “Construction of bridges in this way is akin to killing a river. The river is being rehabilitated to make it flow. And these unplanned bridges are one of the main constraints to that. We are protesting against the construction of these unplanned bridges and we will start a movement against this very soon.”
Construction of bridges this way is akin to killing a river. The river is being rehabilitated to make it flow. And these unplanned bridges are one of the main constraints to that. We are protesting against the construction of these unplanned bridges and we will start a movement against this very soonIqbal Kabir Zahid, advisor, Bhairab River Reform Movement
According to the BIWTA, there was no provision getting clearance from the BIWTA regarding the height of the bridge before 2010. A provision related to this was legislated in 2010 and it was issued as a notification.
Although this provision clarifies the required height and length of the bridge based on the classification of waterways, it doesn’t mention the names of the routes. Later, in 2018 a notification was issued again, this time with names of 95 major riverine routes.
In response to a question, Western Bangladesh Bridge Improvement Project’s executive acting engineer Golam Kibria said, the work on the Simkhali bridge began in 2015. The construction of the bridge started in 2018. However, the notice was issued in 2018 and the problem lies here.
Visiting all these bridges and a bridge constructed in recent times it was seen that a new bridge is being constructed after demolishing the old bridge on the Teka river in the Tekarghat area in Monirampur upazila of Jashore. The distance between the bridge and water is very low.
Besides, two new low-height bridges are under construction on the Mukteshwari river within a distance of one and a half kilometres in Haridaskati union of the upazila. Of these, the construction of the Subalkathi bridge has been finished. Now works are underway to construct the linking bridge. The construction of the Hazrail bridge is underway.
Three more low-height bridges are being constructed on the Shree river in the Nehalpur area, and on Harihar river in Manirampur and Chinatola area of the upazila after demolishing the old bridges in those areas.
Two low-height bridges are being constructed on the Bhairab river in the Daitala area of Jashore Sadar upazila and Chhatiyantala area of Bagharpara upazila in Jashore after demolishing the existing bridges.
The Roads and Highways Department has finished the construction work of another low-height bridge on the Chitra river in the Shimakhali area of Bagharpara upazila. They are working on the linking roads.
Two more bridges are being constructed on the Betna river within one kilometre in Sharsha upazila. One of these two bridges is located at the Kazirber-Islampur intersection and the other one is located at the connecting point of Gatipara and Nischintapur village.
The height of the recently constructed bridge in Rupdia village of Jashore Sadar upazila is low as well.
Speaking to Prothom Alo regarding this, executive engineer of LGED in Jashore, Md Shariful Islam said, “The navigational clearance from the BIWTA is still under process. We have informed the higher bodies about the construction of the bridge. The construction of the bridge started on their order. We will stop the construction work if they tell us to.”
When asked, deputy commissioner of Jashore and the convenor of the district river protection committee, Md Tamizul Islam Khan told Prothom Alo, “We have discussed this issue during the last meeting of the district coordination committee. The LGED, Roads and Highways Department and the Water Development Board have been asked to make arrangements to maintain the standards set by the notification during the construction of these bridges.”
*This report appeared on the print and online versions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu