Locals fearful of century-old ramshackle bridge over Uma Oya
By Eunice Ruth and Lasantha Rathnayaka
The suspension bridge over Uma Oya in the Daragala area, which connects the Welimada and Uva Paranagama Electoral Divisions, is in a dilapidated condition with decayed and broken steel cables and wooden planks; putting those who use it on a daily basis at serious risk, locals said.
However, residents say that authorities have not paid attention to the issue so far and added that the bridge is also used by people from several other localities for various purposes including those living in Welimada, Uva Paranagama, Katugalla, and Daragala. Erin Caldera, a 78-year-old resident of the village, said that the bridge was built for the convenience of estate workers who travel a long way. The bridge was built 100 years ago and is currently in a condition not suitable for daily use.
“The bridge is the only way to reach Welimada District Hospital quickly and if not, we need to walk more than 3 km to take a bus.” The bridge spans 200 feet over the Uma Oya and is 300 feet in length, its steel cables are broken and due to this condition, people are reluctant to use it for their daily needs.
“Previously, due to Media attention, the bridge was repaired by the Uva Paranagama Police and Civil Security Committee. Now again it is in a risky condition where it can even take the lives of people, but unfortunately no one is concerned about our lives,” said Caldera She requested the Pradeshiya Sabha and other responsible authorities to look into the issue and provide a solution by repairing the existing bridge or by building a new permanent bridge.
Another resident of the village, Amitha Priyadharshini, a 30-year-old mother said that all people including elders, children and patients use the bridge to reach the other side within a short time. “Sometimes our children cross the bridge to go to school and letting them on it alone scares us more than anything,” she said. “The cables and wooden planks of the bridge are severely dilapidated and some have even been removed by certain people. Also, in the rainy season the risk is even higher than normal days.
However, nobody came forward to repair the bridge till today and we are still using this bridge in its current condition”. Priyadharshini suggested that authorities should build a concrete bridge for safety of the villagers. Meanwhile, an official of the Uva Paranagama Pradeshiya Sabha said that they have not visited the place yet and claimed that the locals have not made any complaints or requests to repair or build a new bridge.
“Previously, we repaired it following requests by locals and if they make any request again we can consider it and do the needful to repair or build a new bridge,” she added. She also said that it is not an easy task to build or repair a bridge and the process and final decision needs to be taken after discussing the matter with other relevant authorities. “The Government should allocate a separate budget for that,” she said.