A half-century might be a noteworthy cricket tally but it's a long time for people to live without a vital transport link. Yet in Mymensingh's Ishwarganj upazila the inhabitants of seven villages have suffered from such a situation, with the locally-made bamboo bridge at Sankurghat the only nearby option for crossing the Kanchamatia River, a Brahmaputra tributary.
“It's really difficult to reach upazila headquarters,” says Alal Uddin from affected Bishnupur village. “It's a twenty-kilometre journey away from the river due to the lack of a good transport link, and in rainy season the scale of the suffering is even worse.”
“Villages in our area are famous for quality vegetables, year-round,” says Aklima Khatun, a farmer of nearby Bhatirchar. “But due to the transport difficulties we are left at the mercy of middlemen.”
“If there was a concrete bridge over the river,” agrees another farmer, Jasim Uddin from Machuadanga, “we could reach upazila headquarters, the district town and even Dhaka with ease. Then we could achieve a reasonable profit for our produce.”
In the meantime villagers have themselves constructed the bamboo bridge at Sankurghat, which many school children must negotiate on every school day to reach class. The bamboo bridge needs repair work and some reconstruction each year.
More painful still, several villagers commented, is when critical patients who need to reach Ishwarganj upazila's health complex or Mymensingh town hospitals as a matter of urgency cannot.
In all seven villages a concrete bridge is a long-cherished dream. Despite this, no initiative for its construction has ever been taken.
“For our students and our farmers who cannot get fair prices for their produce,” says Modabbirul Islam, the chairman of affected Razibpur union, “the construction of a concrete bridge is a must. Without it our locality will not develop.”
“Before many national elections candidates of different political parties have made colourful pledges to build the bridge; they happily take the votes of our villagers but don't keep their promises,” Modabbirul said.
The upazila nirbahi officer of Ishwarganj, Rajib Kumar Sarker, says along with other upazila officials he visited the area recently and has asked the upazila engineer to prepare a proposal for a concrete bridge. “We will send the proposal to the concerned authority soon, and make it a priority job for us,” he says. “In the meantime, we will construct a wide and strong bamboo bridge funded by the administration within a week, to facilitate easier passage of villagers and students across the river.”