By Hari Prasad Koirala Miklajung, July 24: A bridge over the Solti Khola at Miklajung Rural Municipality Ward No. 5 of Morang has been in a state of disrepair for the past three and a half years. The bridge over the river connects Miklajung’s Dhanekheti to Gupti and Kholitar. Every monsoon, floods in the river claims lives while also wreaking havoc in the surrounding communities along the river bank. Hordes of villagers have been displaced yet the local authorities continue to remain oblivious to their plights. Construction of the bridge is one of the main agendas of every political candidate during the elections. Locals collectively agree that a sturdier bridge will be a foundation for economic development and trade. Less than a year after the formation of the Provincial government, the then Minister for Economic Affairs and Planning Indra Bahadur Angbo had laid the foundation stone of the bridge. At the time, a total of Rs. 7 million was set aside for the construction of the bridge in collaboration with the Rural Municipality Office and three local community forests. According to Devi Prasad Acharya, chairperson of the Rural Municipality, the municipal office had set aside Rs. 3 million for the bridge while the ward office had allocated a budget of Rs. 500,000. Likewise, Vardanda and Gaumati Community Forest each provided Rs. 1 million for the project with Dankheti Community Forest contributing Rs. 500,000. Although the project was still a million rupees short of the estimated budget of Rs. 7 million, construction moved ahead as then Minister Angbo pledged to provide an additional fund of Rs. 5 million for the project. Locals were optimistic that their long-awaited bridge would soon come into operation. For almost four years, they have been longingly staring at the bridge construction site. In all these years, there has hardly been any progress. The locals feel deceived. Over the course of the last few years, the local Consumer Committee, one of the stakeholders responsible for overseeing the project, has undergone several changes. In the initial phase of the construction, Tek Bahadur Rai took upon the role of a chairperson only to relinquish the position after a couple of months. Following Rai, Buddhiman Shrestha took on the role, and the construction project came to a grinding halt. “Just installing the pillars at either side of the bridge cost us Rs 8.8 million. We ran out of budget and couldn’t continue,” claimed Shrestha. He also informed that the Province 1 Government has, so far, only provided Rs. 2.8 million out of Rs. 5 million that was initially promised under the leadership of then Minister Angbo. However, Rural Municipality chairperson Acharya contradicts this reasoning. “As per the engineers, if the distance between the pillars at either side of the bridge exceeds 70 feet, another pillar must be erected to support the mid portion of the bridge. This additional pillar wasn’t anticipated initially, as a result of which, the current budget is insufficient to further the project,” he explained. Distraught by the consumer committee’s inefficacy and the local level’s negligence, residents formed a new committee under the chairmanship of Bhim Prasad Gautam. “We asked for the financial report of the construction with the previous committee. However, they are still showing reluctance to divulge any such information. Even the Rural Municipality isn’t being transparent about this issue,” shared chairperson Gautam. With the concrete bridge showing no sign of progression, locals have erected a temporary bridge to ease transportation. The bridge is sturdy enough to withstand the weight of pedestrians, tempos and motorbikes.