As if they didn’t have enough trouble on their hands, residents of 15 towns and 45 villages in Pakistan’s Swat Valley have been completely stranded since a bridge linking them was swept away by last year’s floods.
This isolation officially ended last Friday when the United Arab Emirates ambassador to Pakistan inaugurated a new 448 meter bridge gifted by President Sheikh Khalifa. Named after the UAE’s ultimate eco-hero, the Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan bridge cost $10.5 million to build and features solar-powered way lighting.
Essa Abdullah Al Basha Al Nuaimi “handed over” the bridge to Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and other officials last week Friday, according to The National.
The new landmark reflects the “spirit of fraternity, solidarity, mutual respect and shared vision between the two brotherly leaderships and people,” Mr. Al Nuaimi said at the opening ceremony.
In addition to providing a vital link to towns and villages on either side of the Swat River, the new bridge is expected to service 4,000 vehicles a day and reach a total of 500, 000 people living in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province north-west of Pakistan.
Last August (and the year before that), the area was devastated by incessant flooding that wiped out the previous bridge. And whilst climate change almost guarantees that the flooding will eventually return, this stalwart structure gifted by the UAE has been designed to rise above the flood plain.
Solar-powered lighting illuminates both the road and the structure, and The National reports that a pedestrian walkway that runs parallel to the road was incorporated into the design.
While Qatar and Libya step in to help lift Egypt out of its pot of woes, and Bahrain gifted money to the formerly famine-stricken Somalia, the United Arab Emirates has invested a great deal of money and time in Pakistan, where it has embarked on a series of environmental and humanitarian development projects.
This latest initiative was carried out under President Sheikh Khalifa’s directive, which might explain why a model of the historic UAE Al Jahli Fort, which was apparently his favorite childhood playground, was built at the onset of one entrance.
There is some hope that the bridge and mini fort could become a hot new tourist destination and generate much-needed revenue.
Images via The National