While the Southern Provincial Council election campaign is hotting up, people of Kahaduwa, Hedigedarawatta and Bindunuwetiya in Elipitya appeal to the government to repair the Bindunuwetiya suspension bridge, which has become a veritable death trap due to its missing and damaged planks. It is 22 feet long and three feet wide. Around 500 families are dependent on this bridge that links their villages with the main road. During heavy rains water flows over the bridge located about 25 feet above the normal water level of the Embun Ela.
Villagers have brought the condition of their bridge to the notice of politicians and bureaucrats alike for the past few years but in vain. An appeal to the Elpitiya Divisional Secretariat, too, has fallen on deaf ears, residents complain.
The oldest person in the area, Udawatte Jalathge Johanis said before the bridge was built about ten years back, there had been a tree truck placed across the stream for people to cross it. He said at that time there had been only ten or fifteen families in the area and the need for a bridge had been felt badly with when the population increased. Although they had asked for a bridge, only a ‘welpalama’ had been given.
Johanis faulted politicians of all hues for the present state of the suspension bridge. He said all of them visited the affected villages only during elections and their promises to repair the bridge were never carried out. After securing people’s votes, politicians enjoyed life away in towns and the city while their electors were suffering in silence. This time around as well, people would be taken for a ride, he said adding that people were waiting till politicians came to them seeking their votes.
P. G. Pemawathi said many people had no alternative but to use the suspension bridge even risking their life and limb as they had to take their agricultural produce such as tea, coconut, cinnamon, pepper and rubber to townships of Kahaduwa, Elpitiya, Mapalagama and Ambalangoda. Over 50 bags of raw tea leaves were taken across the bridge daily, she said. Earlier there had been a 12-foot wide and one-km long road between Kahaduwa and Welekade but its width had been rapidly reduced to about four feet due to being overgrown with shrubs infested with venomous snakes. The road was in such a bad state that people were wary of using it after the nightfall and children could not travel on it with their shoes on. They had to carry their footwear up to the main road and then put them on, Pemawathi said.
Nimal Nanayakkara said several people had fallen through the gaps on the bridge left by missing planks and sustained injuries. Although there were numerous road development projects around the country, no one had cared to attend to their problem, he said appealing to the government to step in to have a bridge built for the benefit of 500 families or to construct a new bridge.
Pradeshiya Sabha member Champika Pushpakumara said he had been informed of the situation of the suspension bridge and he had inspected it. He said it was in a state of disrepair and unless immediate action was taken to repair it, people’s lives were in danger. He said he had taken up the matter at the Provincial Coordinating Committee meetings on several occasion but to no avail. He said no officer had heeded his complaint and the Committee had stopped inviting him to its meeting as he was considered a troublemaker.