Weekly Bang-e-Sahar Karachi Saturday, September 6——-September 12, 2008
By DJ Mathal
The people of Gilgit-Baltistan who have been facing socio-political deprivation for the last over 60 years are now faced with yet another administrative crisis. The Pak-China Bridge built in 1976 was carrying the heavy weight of trucks and containers and two years back its fate had been written on the wall. But how could one expect its revival from those who never take mercy even on the sufferings of human beings. As a result, the bridge succumbed to the pressure after serving the people quietly for so long.
Unfortunately, the collapse of the Pak-China Bridge has broken the back of the people of the region who have not been provided any respectable means of communication by the power that be for the last over six decades. The dilapidated condition of roads and bridges has jammed the wheels of development in the region.
Latest reports indicate that the collapse of the China Bridge has also taken its tool on the Chinar Bagh Bridge on which heavy traffic has been banned. These two bridges were the only means of communication between Gilgit and its surrounding areas including Hunza Nagar and Gujal.
The wide and concrete China Bridge played a vital role in Pak-China trade and containers carrying import and export goods used this bridge to and from Kashghar in China. After its collapse, however, the movement of these transport vehicles has come to a standstill for the last many weeks, incurring thousands of rupees loss on the traders under the head of fares every day. Besides, the people of Hunza Nagar and Gujal are facing the brunt of the situation the most.
The China Bridge collapsed at a time when potato, an important cash crop of these areas, was ready to be transported to the markets. The production was good and the farmers were expecting good return for the crop but due to disruption in the communication it could not be supplied to the markets, causing loss of millions of rupees to the farmers. The Chinar Bagh Bridge which is being used as an alternative was also closed for trucks.
As a result, the cost of a bag of potatoes decreased from Rs2,000 to Rs800 while 75 per cent of the stock is rotting in godowns in the villages. It is feared that there would be no transport arrangements for at least one month and the loss incurred on other agricultural products’ trade would be up to Rs4 billion.
What the people of Gilgit-Baltistan can expect from the rulers of Pakistan who have been unable to construct a bridge in the area to keep the wheel of business going. Who will compensate for the loss of Hunza Nagar farmers? Had the China Bridge repaired and reconstructed on time, the situation would not have reached such an impasse.