Hardly a week passes by when the print media do not carry a picture of deplorable conditions of bridges or their collapse under the weight of heavy vehicles. These bridges and culverts cover the whole expanse of this river and canal-filled country. Over the last couple of decades, the number of these weak and rickety bridges has only galloped. Broadly, three kinds of such bridges dominate the country's communication set-up. A frequently encountered view is made up of bridges which do not have any approach roads. The structure of a bridge standing in the middle of a desolate field presents a surrealistic spectacle. In reality, wrong choice of the site on the designated river or canal now dried up has made the bridge irrelevant. This type of structures constitutes the largest segment of the faulty bridges. The other bridges are the sloppily built ones. They begin showing signs of malfunction and eventual collapse within a short time after construction. Of the other types, only the pillars are found in place across a water body. In most of the cases, it is no less than embezzlement of money from the state coffers. Faulty construction of a badly needed bridge only adds to the miseries of those people using it. Barring a few genuine initiatives by some people's representatives, most such infrastructures are used for lining pockets of those involved in such projects.
Portraying rural Bangladesh as an area sufficiently enjoying connectivity through bridges and roads is a distortion of reality. Although the state of road connections has attained a passable level lately, the one of bridges remains plagued by a plethora of irregularities and stop-gap steps. In recent times, the condition of the country's bridges has turned from bad to worse in most cases. It is the cavalier attitude towards choosing the appropriate sites and approval of the funds coupled with lax oversight of the construction work that rule the roost in this vital sector. The striking absence of any maintenance and prompt repair mechanism aggravates the matter.
The picture of desperate villagers building bamboo and log-made improvised bridges on self-help basis upon failing to bear no longer with the inaction of the authorities is in sight now. It's a sad commentary on the general state of the rural bridges, a highly critical sector under the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED). A major part of responsibility in constructing and keeping rural bridges functional rests with this entity. But hindrances continue to creep in, mostly in the form of influences and interferences born of political considerations.
Taking the trend as something built-in with the system, a few options are still found open. A state-sponsored survey on the non-transparently constructed rural bridges and the extent of fund wastage thereof has to be carried out. Approval of funds for these bridges deserves extreme caution. A study on their real need should also be an imperative.
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