Thursday June 01, 2023

People start repairing Kalam-Bahrain road on self-help basis

September 03, 2022

PESHAWAR: Hundreds of people responded to the announcements made from local loudspeakers in the flood-hit Kalam valley of Swat district and started repairing the 35-kilometre long Kalam-Bahrain road, which was swept away by the August 26 devastating floods.

It sent a positive message across Pakistan and abroad and the engineers of Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) arrived in Madyan town with heavy machinery to launch repair work on the damaged road. The machinery could not be moved beyond Madyan due to lack of access to Bahrain. The machinery would be shifted to Bahrain and onward when the land route between Madyan and Bahrain is restored.

During his visit to Swat a few days ago, Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa had announced the repair of the Kalam-Bahrain road in six to seven days for traffic.

Gen Bajwa had rightly stated that they were aware of the importance of the only land route that links a large number of population living beyond Bahrain including Mankial, Peshmal, Kedam, Cham Ghari, Lai Kot, Kalam, Gabral, Ushu, Mattaltan and other areas as the local people were dependent on this road.

He had explained that people of upper Swat would need to make arrangements for the fast-approaching winter, therefore efforts would be made to get the road ready for traffic as soon as possible.

According to a Kalam-based social worker, Nasrullah Kalami, the 35-kilometre Bahrain-Kalam had been damaged in 25 places.

“There are four points where the road doesn’t exist at all. In the remaining places the road has been damaged but is repairable with heavy machinery,” he explained. Nasrullah said they made announcements from mosques and appealed to the local community to come and help repair the road.

“Within minutes, hundreds of people appeared with whatever small equipment they possessed. The unity of our community particularly in crisis and natural disasters is matchless,” he said.

On a self-help basis, the people of Kalam and surrounding villages removed heavy stones from the road and filled the sinkholes in the road by bringing stones and sand from the riverside. The local community continued working on the road for the second consecutive day on Friday and repaired almost half a kilometre road that was washed away in the floods.

The Al-Khidmat Foundation volunteers also joined around 700 people of Kalam and worked together till sunset. They offered Friday prayer on the main road and food was served at the same place that some local individuals had arranged for them.

A construction firm in Kalam had arranged an excavator free of cost to help the local community in repairing the road where the repair work was not possible without heavy machinery. The local people appreciated their generous support in the critical time. However, after the FWO engineers arrived and took control of the repair work, they arranged fuel and got involved all excavators available in Kalam.

Finding fuel was a major issue in the flood-damaged areas but thanks to the FWO officials who arranged fuel for all the excavators and didn’t hamper the work.

The government didn’t yet start assessment of losses to the state installations and private properties from flash floods triggered by days of abnormal monsoon torrential rains in the mountainous region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

According to Nasrullah Kalami, since most of the link roads and bridges had either been swept away in the floods or damaged beyond use, they were lucky to have an excavator arranged for them by a Kalam-based construction firm, and repaired those roads in the residential areas.

The floods had largely affected Swat, Upper Dir and Kohistan but the major challenge for the Swat district administration was the safe evacuation of around 3,000 plus tourists stranded in Kalam and Gabral.

Chief Minister Mahmood Khan provided the official helicopter to the Swat administration for the rescue and relief operation. It played a key role in the rescue and relief work as despite difficulties, the Swat administration rescued most of the tourists from Kalam to safe places in Mingora.

Deputy Commissioner Swat Junaid Khan, Additional Deputy Commissioner Abrar Wazir and Assistant Commissioner Kamran Khan along with team members had constantly been working since the start of the natural disaster in the region.

Still a few hundred tourists had anxiously been waiting for their evacuation from Kalam. The federal government was expected to facilitate the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government in the rescue and relief, particularly in the remote mountainous areas of the Malakand region and Kohistan by providing large transport helicopters.

Some of the tourists belonging to Islamabad, Punjab and Karachi in Sindh were quite disappointed with the slow pace of rescue work and accused the federal government of not helping the provincial government in the crisis. They were thankful to the KP government and said that despite limited resources, the provincial government honestly utilised the available means for their facilitation.

They said the KP government with their single helicopter rescued most of the tourists but some of the families were still waiting for their evacuation. They were thankful to the local community of Kalam and hoteliers for providing them free stay and food after the floods hit the tourist resort on August 26.