FEATURE STORY

Bridge Connects Rural Community to the World

February 2, 2016

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The sturdy steel and concrete bridge unites the village and allows easy passage for livestock, vehicles, and pedestrians. 

Rumi Consultancy / World Bank

Story Highlights
  • The lives of residents in a rural village in Bamyan Province have been transformed by a new bridge that straddles the village divided by a river.
  • The bridge, which provides all-season access to both sides of the village as well as to services and markets in the cities, was built by the Afghanistan Rural Access Project, under the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development.
  • The project, supported by the World Bank’s International Development Association and Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), aims to benefit rural communities by improving access to basic services and facilities through all-weather roads.

PANJAB DISTRICT, Bamyan Province – The sun is setting and Ali Juma, 37, who is exhausted and out of breath, has brought his herd of sheep back to the village from the pasture. He is taking them over the bridge to the other side of Kajabi village where he comes from.

Located in Panjab district of Bamyan Province, Kajabi is more than 250 km south west of the provincial capital, Bamyan city. Surrounded by soaring mountains, Kajabi’s green nature gives it a unique beauty. A fast flowing river divides the village in two.

The sturdy steel and concrete bridge unites the village and allows easy passage for livestock, vehicles, and pedestrians. Ali Juma, who is trying to separate his sheep from the other herds, is grateful that he can now herd his sheep safely and quickly across the river, which was not possible before. “Before this bridge existed, there were only two poles that served as a bridge that connected both sides of the village,” he recalls. “Both people and livestock faced numerous challenges and risks while crossing the wooden bridge.”

Funding support for the construction of the 12-meter-long and 5-meter-wide bridge was provided through the Afghanistan Rural Access Project (ARAP), under the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD). The project aims to benefit rural communities across Afghanistan by improving access to basic services and facilities through all-weather roads.

Supported by the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries, and Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), ARAP is a follow-on project of the National Rural Access Program (NRAP).

To date, construction of 732 kilometers of tertiary roads and 825 meters of tertiary bridges have been completed across Afghanistan. At the same time, maintenance of over 3,000 kilometers of tertiary roads and periodic maintenance of some 230 kilometers of tertiary roads have been carried out. Road maintenance work, to ensure that roads are kept in good condition, is one of the new sub-projects undertaken by ARAP.

The construction of the bridge, which began in December 2010, took a year. The Kajabi bridge and adjacent road are maintained through the MRRD’s maintenance program, with funding support from ARAP. Under the program, 100 meters of road were graveled on both sides of the bridge.

“Kajabi villagers now have easy access to markets,” says Khodabakhsh Sultani, an ARAP engineer in Bamyan Province.  “Ever since we have completed our bridge project, many villagers, who had left the area for bigger cities, have come back to their village.”


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Since the completion of the bridge project, many villagers, who had left the area for bigger cities, have come back to their village

Rumi Consultancy / World Bank

" Ever since we completed our bridge project, many villagers, who had left the area for bigger cities, have returned to their village.  "

Khodabakhsh Sultani

Engineer, Afghanistan Rural Access Project, Bamyan Province

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The project aims to benefit rural communities across Afghanistan by improving access to basic services and facilities through all-weather roads.

Rumi Consultancy / World Bank

Benefits to young and old

Over 2,500 people benefit from this bridge. It has enabled residents to have all-season access to both sides of the village, as well as to basic services and markets in the cities. In the past, their access to the other side of the village was almost entirely blocked during the winter and early spring.

“In the winter, we could not cross the wooden bridge, fearing snow and ice. Due to frequent flooding of the river in spring, it was still impossible to go to the other side of the river during the first two months,” says villager Sher Hossain, 58. “We faced so many problems and risks when we needed something from the other side of the village and it was absolutely necessary to cross the river.”

Kajabi villagers no longer face those risks, which included cars falling into the river. “Before the bridge was built, the cars trying to cross the river on the wooden bridge would fall in. I witnessed three such cases myself,” Sher Hossain says. The cars could be retrieved only with the help of larger freight trucks.

Farmers also are enjoying better revenue through lowered costs such as lower freight fees as a result of trucks using the bridge and taking a more direct route to the markets. “Before this bridge was constructed, truck drivers charged a freight fee of 20 Afghanis per 7 kg of potatoes to transport them from Kajabi to Kabul. This fee is now lowered to 12-15 Afghanis,” says farmer Mohammad Jamil, 30, who sells his crop of potatoes in Kabul and Bamyan markets.

Adult residents are not the only beneficiaries of the new bridge. Village children can now attend school during the whole school year. Previously, students from one side of the river could not attend school in the first two months of spring since the only village school is located on the other side. Many families did not send their children under 10 years of age to school, fearing they might fall and drown in the river.

Mohammad Reza, 30, a resident and teacher in Kajabi village, says: “It was hard to walk across the poles on the wooden bridge. Students could not attend school until late May. However, since the bridge was constructed in the village, we have managed to convene vital literacy courses for 40 kids who had previously missed school. Now all families send their children to school.”


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