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News > Panjshir Breaks Ground for Bakshikhiel Bridge
 
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Bakshikhiel Bridge
Panjshir Provincial Governor Hajji Bahlol cuts the ribbon at the groundbreaking ceremony for the new $179,000 Bakshikhiel Bridge in Rokha District, Panjshir on Aug 24. The Bakshikhiel Bridge was one of two in Rokha that were destroyed by the floods in June 2007 killing 23 people. “The people of Rokha District have been through a great deal,” said Air Force Lt. Col. Russell Kaskel, Panjshir Provincial Team’s Commander (pictured here). “By some accounts, the number of deaths on 27 June 2007 was the most experienced in one day since the Russians stopped fighting in Panjshir. So, you can understand why this project is so well received.” The bridge is scheduled to be complete in November, hopefully before the first snow. (U.S. Air Force photo by Capt. Jillian Torango/Released)
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Panjshir Breaks Ground for Bakshikhiel Bridge

Posted 8/26/2008   Updated 8/26/2008 Email story   Print story

    


by Capt. Jillian Torango
Panjshir Provicial Reconstruction Team


8/26/2008 - PANJSHIR PROVINCE, Afghanistan -- It was only a small group who came to the groundbreaking of the new $179,000 Bakshikhiel Bridge in Rokha District, Panjshir on Aug 24, but it was the biggest celebration.

The importance of this new bridge is not lost on the local villagers.

On June 27, 2007, a flash flood ravaged parts of the Rokha District. The Bakshikhiel Bridge was one of two in Rokha that were destroyed by the floods during one of the most catastrophic natural disasters here in recent memory. That day, 23 people lost their lives in the flooding.

"The people of Rokha District have been through a great deal," said Air Force Lt. Col. Russell Kaskel, Panjshir Provincial Team's commander. "By some accounts, the number of deaths on 27 June 2007 was the most experienced in one day since the Russians stopped fighting in Panjshir. So, you can understand why this project is so well received."

The flooding in 2007 was so sudden and so powerful; the waters quickly overwhelmed the three-month-old bridge.

"The old bridge consisted of earth-covered culverts where the new structure will be a real bridge with a paved road," said Air Force Capt. Jason Aftanas, PRT Panjshir's Chief Engineer. "The new bridge will provide at least six meters of clearance which will be more than enough clearance to allow for any increased flow of water underneath."

Not only will this new bridge help the people in Rokha, but it will help the people of the entire province.

"Road construction is critical to the social and economic development in Afghanistan," said Army Col. Cynthia Ernst, Joint Task Force Civil Affairs Commander headquartered at Bagram Air Base. "This completed bridge will ensure the road continues all the way up through the province."

Ernst also noted that the secure environment in Panjshir leads to the ability to get projects like this completed.

"This is a reconstruction project because they're repairing a bridge that was washed out and this is very similar to the road construction in the other provinces I've been in," Ernst said. "The advantage here is that you have security and in many of the other provinces they have to worry about anti-Afghan Forces coming in behind them and blowing it up. You're replacing this because of a natural washout which although terrible, is what we'd rather see if we had to do the reconstruction."

The four month construction project was scheduled to begin in June, however Hajji Bahlol, the Provincial Governor realized that his own brother in-law's construction company had won the project's bid.

"As soon as Governor Bahlol realized that his own brother in-law won the contract, he immediately contacted the PRT and requested that the project be re-bid," said Kaskel. "This is government transparency at its best. The Governor in no way wanted it to seem like he or his family was benefitting from this project. To me that speaks volumes about the good, legitimate governance processes in Panjshir."

The villagers didn't seem to have a problem with the delay, and the day's celebration was one of the biggest and most traditional yet.

The contractor purchased a 1,000 pound bovine that was sacrificed at the end of the ceremony.

He sacrificed it to show his respect for the village. Once the animal was butchered, the meat was given out to the eager villagers.

It was the contractor's way of asking for the villagers' trust by showing them that he would work hard and provide the best project possible. The villagers, now with full stew pots, showed they had accepted his offer.

The bridge is scheduled to be complete in November, hopefully before the first snow.



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