URROW VILLAGE, Panjshir Province - The new suspension bridge at Urrow village replaces one that told sad tales. In this remote Afghan valley in Panjshir province, villagers still tell grim stories about the old pulley-and-cable bridge that once hung between narrow iron posts over the surging Panjshir River.
People remember the shepherd who stumbled down a nearby mountain pass and died before friends could swing him across the old bridge to hospital. Stories recall school children who drowned in the fierce spring river runoff and many tell of a foreigner who fell off the pulley bridge and dropped precious film of Ahmad Shah Massoud, their much-loved resistance leader, into the river’s muddy waters.
“Before this new bridge, people had terrible problems, lots of losses here,” recalls Abdul Alim Allahyar, head of a local Community Development Council (CDC) that finally requested construction of a sturdy, new 67-meter bridge to replace the makeshift structure. Four CDCs, representing local villagers, eventually worked together on the proposal for a suspension bridge which today boasts the longest single span of its kind in the north-central province.
The bridge was completed four years ago with funding (AFs 8,636,400 approximately $159,000) from the Afghanistan Rural Access Program (ARAP). The program is implemented by the Ministry of Public Works with support from the World Bank and Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF). The program’s objective is to enable rural communities to benefit from all-season road access to basic services and facilities. ARAP also assists with construction of new bridges to improve connectivity to isolated communities in remote areas.
“Now we appreciate this bridge every day and thank all those who helped to make it possible,” says Allahyar. The red, yellow and blue bridge stands against a backdrop of steep, rock-strewn mountain slopes. Through the bridge, people now travel easily to the opposite bank where a narrow highway runs the length of their province for more than 100 kilometers.