MAHMOOD RAQI (Pajhwok): Work on a vital road connecting central Kapisa province with other three provinces could not be resumed in seven years due to non-construction of the Gulbahar Bridge.
Importance of the Road:
The 21-kilometre road connects Mahmood Raqi’s Guldan area with Jablus Saraj Chock in Parwan province. Heavy and light traffic from the country’s east travel this road to the north.
The road makes the distance shorter between the eastern and northern provinces, compared to the road going to the north from Kabul, signifying its importance.
But in the Gulbahar Bazaar, work has been stopped on a 300-meter long bridge, interrupting vehicular movement. The previous bridge was made of woods and iron that often got damaged and resultantly brought the traffic to a halt.
Residents of the locality
The residents and local officials said work on the vital road was expected to be completed in three years, but due the non-construction of Gulbahar bridge, work on the road was also halted.
Sher Zaman, a driver, said a one-way bridge was constructed during former President Hamid Karzai’s initial years and later the bridge’s condition dilapidated and would result in multiple accidents every year.
“Many parts of the bridge have damaged and this winter drivers may fear using the bridge as it often results in accidents,” he said.
Khairullah, a tribal elder in Khohistanat-1 district, said the construction company which held the road contract “owes eight months’ wages to locals.”
He said work on the bridge and the road had been stopped for the past two years and a result, residents and commuters faced multiple problems.
Hashmatullah Ishaqzada, a former civil society organization head, said the Mahmood Raqi-Jablus Saraj road was not only important for Kapesa but was equally important for neighboring provinces.
He said the road project was not properly monitored since work on launched on it while the construction company had failed to complete its work in-time.
He recalled the two years given in the contract had passed but the road could not be constructed.
Wolesi Jirga and Provincial Council members
Iqbal Sapi, a lawmaker from Kapisa province in the lower house, said Hewadwal Company, the contractor, launched work on the road and constructed some parts of it but later stopped work.
“When we demanded work resumption, the company said the concerned government authority is refusing payment. But whenwe reached the ministry, they claimed giving 20 percent extra money to the company.”
However, Sapi said when the new minister took charge and he discussed the issue with him, it was revealed that the ministry had not paid the money and the company was not wrong in its claim.
Hussain Sanji, a member of the Provincial Council, confirmed the project could not be completed in its due time and the company never consulted the public representatives.
He said since the project contract had been signed in central capital, they were not responsible for monitoring and submission.
He said the road has transit importance, but the non-construction of the bridge in Gulbahar area had made it difficult for people to travel on the route.
Abdul Fateh Shafiq, the administrative chief of Kohistan-1 district, acknowledged problems being faced by people and said the road’s completion would resolve all the problems.
He said the road was vital for public comfort and economic activities due to its transit importance.
He added vehicles coming from the north could go to Sarobi district of Kabul and Torkham Port by crossing this road. He said the non-construction of the Gulbahar bridge was the most impeding issue.
Kapisa public works director, Eng. Mohammad Edress Mirzada, said the Public Works Ministry had signed the contract for the Guldan-Jablus Saraj road and his department was not given the authority of supervising the project.
He said the problem had been between the company and the donor. “Problem in the company’s credentials was raised after it started work on the project and this problem took two years to be solved and that was the reason the project implementation was delayed, he said.
“It is a national project, the company itself has engineers to supervise its performance who live in Kapisa”, he said.
Mirzada said the $26 million project was funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). Based on the contract, the project had to be completed within three years after its launch in 2010.
He added the road was 21-kilometer long and seven-meter wide. A major obstacle to the project’s completion was the Gulbahar bridge, which was not fully constructed, he said.
Another problem that delayed the project was acquisition of the road’s land and problems in the company’s credentials, he said, adding Hewadwal Company was currently trying to fully construct the Gulbahar Bridge and inaugurate the road at the end of current solar year.
He said the public works ministry had given all the money to the company but the ministry had probably interfered in the company’s plan which was the reason behind the delay.
Eng. Niamatullah, Hewadwal Company’s manager for this project, told Pajhwok that neither the road was surveyed nor the land was acquisitioned when they signed the contract of the project.
He said the public works minister had urgently signed the contract with them in order to spend his budget.
“When we came to the area, even the direction of the road was unclear, the ministry had no clear plan for this project and that was the reason that took two years for the ministry to specify the road direction,” he said.
The Hewadwal Company blamed the Public Works Ministry for all the problems in the project implementation.
Niamatullah said the road’s map, the ministry later prepared, faced with people’s reaction when their houses and shops were destroyed.
He said people did not agree with the ministry when it was acquiring land for the road, a process that took one and half a year.
“Based on the agreement, the 21 kilometer road should have been fully handed over to us for its construction, but the ministry was only preparing for a 100-meter portion of the road and we had to wait for the ministry’s next road preparation after completing the first portion,” he said.
Niamatullah said they suffered a lot of problems while implementing the road project.
About Gulbahar Bridge, he said the provincial administration and the Public Works Ministry as well as a number of local strongmen were responsible for non-implementation of the project.
“These powerful men extort money from us and take away gravel, sand and other materials, the provincial administration did not cooperate with us,” he said.
He said a local official had several times demanded money from the company. But he did not reveal the name of the official.
He said a number of local powerful figures had threatened the company to go away from the Gulbahar Bridge or accept their demands.
“To whom we should have complained, the former minister stopped our project, he had his own demands, when the current minister noticed the project is 80 percent complete, then he allowed us to resume work and complete the remaining part. The ministry should compensate our losses,” he said.
Former Kapisa governor, Sayed Khalid Hashemi, is also accused of creating problems to the project. Pajhwok tried to contact him or his spokesman for comment but failed.
However, Aziz Rahman Tawab, current Kapisa deputy governor, said he had ordered all organs concerned and security personnel to help the company in implementation of the project.
He said the contract of the project had been signed by the Ministry of Public Works in Kabul and the local administration was only cooperating in its implementation.
Public Works Ministry spokesman Mahdi Rohani said all problems the company faced earlier had been resolved under the leadership of the new minister.
He said the new minister, Yama Yari, visited the Gulbahar Bridge during his trip to Kapisa and ordered officials concerned to complete work on the bridge for the sake of inauguration of the road.