August 26, 2019
tami sin youtube  twitter facebook

    The wonder of a rural bridge Featured

    August 14, 2014

    Rural bridges countrywide bring villages closer to cities

    By Dharman Wickremaratne

    A long cherished dream of the rural population is at last becoming a reality. The programme to build 1210 rural bridges island-wide in accordance with the Mahinda Chinthana Vision is a step forward from Maga Neguma to Gama Neguma for revitalizing the rural sector to which belongs 75 percent of the country’s population.

    Today the rural bridge building programme has spread to 160 Secretarial Divisions of the island under Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa’s direction. The projects have benefited nearly six million people in 12000 villages.

    According to the Minister these bridges will strengthen the village economy and raise the living conditions of the rural population. The Maga Neguma programme which improved rural roads has already provided them with opportunities to earn better incomes. Minister Rajapaksa expressed confidence that the new bridges would also help to boost the agricultural and plantation economies in the near future.

    Sri Lankans inherited bridge building technology from a pre-Anuradhapura civilization. But the roots of the modern bridge construction engineering goes back to British colonial times when bridges with arches were built using rock stones and bricks.

    John Frazer of the British Royal Engineers introduced the unique, 500 feet-long pontoon bridge across the Kelani River in 1822 using 21 barges. The rural bridge building programme today has been based on new British technology.

    In the recent past it took about 10 to 15 years to build bridges in Sri Lanka. The Mahaoya Bridge, Ampara was completed only after 15 years. It took 12 years to construct the Pollathu Modara Bridge and the same number of years to build the Karawanella Bridge.

    Those days when one bridge was completed the workmen who built it went to the next site with a banana plant and breadfruit plant. By the time that bridge was fully built the breadfruit plant had become a massive tree while the banana plant had turned into a banana plantation.

    It is not so today. The bridges you see here in the photos were built within six months using new technology. Phase I of constructing 210 bridges is now almost complete. The balance 1,000 bridges under the programme are expected to be completed by the middle of next year.

    According to Lasantha Madushani (37) of Pallepola in Matale-Dambulla before Polwatta Oya Bridge was built children could not attend school for three months every year during floods. Now they go to school without any such problem, she said. “Earlier it took two hours to travel to Matale. Now it takes only one hour.”

    Earlier when floods occurred the villagers’ lives were completely disrupted. Children could not go to school. Adults could not go to work. Worst affected were those who are on daily pay. Even worse was their having to risk lives when crossing bridges using unsafe means such as ropes and tree trunks to cross rivers. They were suffering as a result from the day they were born.

    The new steel bridges are constructed without arches underneath. They have immense strength to withstand any flood or other inclement weather patterns.

    Hettiarachchige Ratnayake (67) at Weddawala Bridge, Weddawala said: “Measurements were about 25 times during 40 years, supposedly to build bridges. But nothing happened. This time the bridge was completed in six months. It is a dream come true”.

    Pichchi Amma (85) near Hapuvida Bridge near Lower Rattota, Matale said “This bridge building is great meritorious deed”.

    These news bridges have today become their saviours. Children go to school happily. Adults go to work enthusiastically. In the past farmers were compelled to sell their products dirt cheap. Today, traders come in lorries to villages to buy the farmers’ products. There are no middlemen. And the farmers have a good income.

    Bertie Chandradasa (42) of Weera Farmers Organisation near Kuda Oya Bridge at Ethiliyawewa in Balaharuwa, Wellawaya: “In the past had to travel to Kudaoya town to sell our products. Today traders from Wellawaya come to our village to buy the products. Now we earn an additional Rs.20 per product”.

    Mahinda Chinthana is a massive programme based on life experienced in the village. The concept of building new rural bridges was born out of that experience thus opening a new pathway to prosperity.
    (The writer is a senior journalist who could be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)



    Last modified on Thursday, 14 August 2014 17:12

    dgi log front