A bridge constructed by locals over the Jaldhaka River in Nilphamari district collapsed on Wednesday due to heavy rainfall, plunging some 30,000 residents of three unions into a state of despair and distress.
The bridge, which was a lifeline for the community, provided easy access to education, healthcare, government offices, and courts. Its collapse has disrupted the lives of residents in a number of ways.
Students from the affected areas are now forced to undertake long and arduous journeys of 20-25 kilometers to reach their schools and colleges. Patients are struggling to get to hospitals for treatment. Government officials and court staff are finding it difficult to reach their workplaces. And traders are facing challenges in transporting goods.
The collapse of the bridge has also had a negative impact on the local economy. Businesses are suffering due to the reduced movement of people and goods. And farmers are struggling to transport their produce to markets.
The locals are deeply concerned about the future. They are worried that the bridge may not be rebuilt, and that they will be forced to continue living with the hardships caused by its collapse.
Abdul Qayyum, Treasurer of Ghu-Ghumari Social Welfare, which constructed the bridge, said, "I harbored a bright dream for over 50 years to see this bridge built. But the relentless downpour of four consecutive days has cruelly shattered my hopes. Despite visits from local and national representatives and promises of action, our dreams remain unfulfilled."
Zakir Hossain, another resident, remarked, "For us, this bridge was akin to a second liberation after our country gained independence.
We had grown accustomed to easy mobility. However, due to the incessant rains, we find ourselves right back where we started."
Jaldhaka Upazila Nirbahi Officer Md. Moinul Islam clarified that the bridge falls outside their engineering jurisdiction. However, he held hope for its recovery once the river's water level recedes. Nilphamari District Commissioner Pankaj Ghosh assured that necessary measures would be taken once a comprehensive assessment of the bridge's condition is carried out.
The fate of "Naoghat" and its neighboring communities hangs in the balance as they await relief from their unforeseen ordeal.
The collapse of the bridge is a stark reminder of the vulnerability of rural communities to climate change. The heavy rainfall that caused the collapse is just one of the many extreme weather events that are becoming more frequent and intense as a result of climate change.
The government and other stakeholders need to take urgent action to address the needs of the affected communities and ensure that they have access to reliable and sustainable transportation infrastructure.