Wednesday December 07, 2022

Residents want govt to repair Bahrain-Kalam road

September 12, 2022

PESHAWAR: Thousands of people in the flood-hit areas in upper Swat are still looking to the government to fulfil its commitment to repair and open the 35-kilometre Bahrain-Kalam road to traffic. The residents of Kalam valley and other villages dismissed the media reports that the Bahrain-Kalam road had been repaired and traffic restored between the two tourist destinations.

“Not a single vehicle has either left Kalam for downtown nor arrived here after the August 26 floods. Efforts are underway to repair the road,” Nasrullah Khan, a resident of Kalam, told The News.

The residents asked the government to help mitigate their sufferings by restoring power supply and the road infrastructure. The local community is frustrated at being unable to send vegetables to the markets in Peshawar, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore and Karachi.

Potatoes, cabbages, apple gourds, turnips and peas are cultivated in these valleys.

The vegetables grown in valleys are considered as cash crops for the poor farmers. They plan all festivals, particularly marriages, after selling the vegetables and make purchases for the harsh winter. According to the farmers, they haven’t been able to send the vegetables to the markets after the recent flash floods that damaged the Bahrain-Kalam road.

The farmers said they used to transport the vegetables to the Kalam bazaar from nearby villages and then take them to the markets.

Now when link roads and bridges are damaged or washed away in the floods, they are facing difficulties and utilising local techniques that sometimes cause them losses and bags full of vegetables are swept away in the river. The farmers shared some videos of their precious vegetables, including potatoes, cabbages and turnips that got wasted as they were not able to send them to the market in time.

Several places including Ramabat, Chamghari, Mankial, Pushmal, Budhai Kamar, Laikot, Kalam, Utror, Gabral, Utror, etc, are presently cut off from the rest of the country.

There is a greater demand for the vegetables cultivated in these valleys in the markets of major cities.

“There could be starvation in many places beyond Bahrain as they can’t send their vegetables to the markets. They had spent Rs300 to Rs400 per bag to send it to Bahrain and then each bag was sold for Rs700 in the market in Mingora,” a farmer Hazrat Zarin told The News. He said vegetables in some places had dried up due to lack of water channels damaged in the floods.

“We are hearing the government is receiving a lot of foreign assistance for the flood affected people, but don’t know why they don’t send us our share. The provincial government has completely forgotten us and neither our MNA nor MPA bothered to visit us in this difficult time,” he complained.

Bahrain, a famous tourist destination, is stated to be the worst victim of the devastating floods. Many hotels, shops, markets and houses had been washed away in the floodwaters that flooded the local Daral Khwar and River Swat.

It also swept away a bridge that used to link several other picturesque valleys and scenic places with the rest of the country. The district administration had installed a makeshift bridge on Dara Khwar to pass on vehicles. A generous offer of the people of Kalam to repair the road by themselves had sent a very positive message to the corridors of power. Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa was the first one to announce that the Bahrain-Kalam road would be repaired and opened to traffic in 6-7 days.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa had realised the suffering of the people living in valleys beyond Bahrain.

Gen Bajwa had during his visit of Swat assured the local community that the road would be repaired in six to seven days.

Since then, the engineering corps of the Pakistan army, Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) and National Highway Authority (NHA) are engaged in work to repair the road.

In some places, the road is repaired but only 4x4 jeeps can pass on to the difficult terrain. Also, only a single vehicle can pass on the road repaired recently, that too very carefully.

“Only the army chief can ensure the road to be rebuilt and widened as we don’t have any trust in the NHA, keeping in view its past record when it was headed by Murad Saeed,”a local resident of Kalam said.

He said they had demanded of the army chief to build a separate road on the other side of the existing road and away from the river.

Also, the elders in Kalam complained that the floods exposed incompetence and mismanagement on the part of NHA as they had failed to check quality of work and materials used in the road.

“The floodwater has weakened the foundations of the existing road and could collapse any time in any place if heavy traffic started. And the elders informed the NHA officials here in Kalam,” said Nasrullah Khan. The initiative for repairing the 35 kilometres road Kalam-Bahrain road was first taken by the people of Kalam valley when they made announcements from loudspeakers of their mosques on the second day of the floods, asking people to come out and help repair the road.

The Swat district administration had played a key role in motivating the elders in Kalam valley and then extending their nonstop assistance to the engineering corps of the Peshawar’s 11th Corps, Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) and National Highway Authority (NHA).

Deputy Commissioner, Swat, Junaid Khan confirmed to The News that the road between Bahrain and Kalam has almost been repaired and opened to traffic.

Presently thousands of people in upper Swat have been dependent on a single helicopter that chief minister Mahmood Khan had provided to the Swat district administration for the rescue and relief operation, particularly evacuating around 4000 stranded tourists from Kalam.

The Swat district administration had completed the rescue mission and now engaged in the relief operation. Additional Deputy Commissioner Swat, Adnan Wazir said they had shifted all their food items to Kalam and Bahrain from Kanju airport in lower Swat.

“Previously three trucks of food items were handed over to local elders from Mankial, Anakar and Kishwar for the flood affected people. We have enough mineral water bottles at godown, as water streams are in good condition in Kalam,” he said.

Adnan Wazir said they will provide water to the already flood affected Babuzai subdivision.

“The relief and emergency operation at Kanju airport in Kabal has come to an end. Now we will be directly operating from Bahrain and Kalam,” the ADC Kalam said.