30-year-old Gugura River bridge collapses -Struggling workers, residents appeal for reconstruction
Seven months after the collapse of the 30-year-old bridge across the Gugura River which connects Navio and Tazika Bagtua to Paga in the Upper East Region, workers and residents continue to struggle daily to go to work and attend to their normal activities.
Residents who use that stretch of the road on a daily basis have to go through long winding alternative routes to get to their destinations in Navrongo and Paga.
The collapse of the bridge is, therefore, having a negative toll on economic activities in the area since it has become very difficult for traders to embark on their trading activities while workers struggle to get to work daily.
The residents have, thus, made a passionate appeal to the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, to come to their rescue and treat the reconstruction of the collapsed steel bridge as an emergency to bring relief to the users of the road.
The steel bridge across the Gugura River, which connects Navio and Tazika Bagtua to Paga, the capital of the Kassena Nankana District and several other communities, collapsed on March 24, 2022 when a heavy-duty DAF truck with registration number AW 8894-12 carrying logs and heading towards Paga from Tangasougo in neighbouring Burkina Faso was crossing it.
Since the bridge came down in the first quarter of this year, many workers, especially nurses and teachers who use their motorbikes and personal vehicles to go to work, have been facing challenges, with its attendant consequences on productivity.
Other communities aside from Navio who have been impacted by the collapse of the bridge are Manyoro, Natugnia, Sirigu and its environs, as well as some border communities in Burkina Faso who also use the bridge to get to Paga.
A worrying development that has arisen as a result of the collapse of the bridge is the fact that farmers in that enclave are unable to cart their harvested farm produce on that road to market centres for sale, which is a great source of worry to them.
Furthermore, the onset of the rains in August this year made it very difficult for residents, including students and workers, to cross the river to school and work, compelling them to abandon going to work and school.
Sadly, five persons have lost their lives after the collapse of the bridge, including two Burkinabes who were on a motorbike at night and fell into the river since they did not know the bridge had collapsed. Later, they both died at the War Memorial Hospital in Navrongo while receiving treatment.
Since there was no sign mounted for users to know of the danger ahead and they were also speeding, they crushed into the logs which the truck that caused the collapse was carrying and sustained severe injuries, resulting in their death.
Bridge before collapse
The truck that collapsed the bridge in ruins
The bridge constructed over three decades ago had developed serious cracks and become weak. The concrete piers had become weak, posing serious danger to users of the bridge within its catchment area.
According to residents, the concrete piers had become weak over time, as well as other metal parts, apparently as a result of the river overflowing its banks during the rainy seasons.
Despite several appeals by residents, opinion leaders, chiefs and the Assembly Member of the area, Roland Apugido, to the district assembly for swift action towards the maintenance of the bridge to forestall an eventual collapse, no immediate action was taken, resulting in its collapse on that fateful day.
Commuters who are bent on going through the river to either side with their motorbike are pushed through by some children stationed there, who are paid a token after successfully pushing their bikes through the river.
The Head Teacher of the Tazika Bagtua Primary School, Alfred Choro, said previously it took him just 10 minutes to ride his motorbike from Paga to attend school on a daily basis.
He said “unfortunately, since the collapse of the bridge, I have to go through a bad alternative route for about an hour before reaching school”, adding that “with the current increase in petroleum products, I spend GH¢30 to and from school, which is a drain on my meagre salary”.
A nurse at the Tazika Bagtua Community Health Planning and Services (CHPS) compound, Vivian Baturu, lamented that it took her two hours to go through another route before getting to work every day.
She said “the high cost of fuel is really a big challenge for us. Sometimes I skip work when I do not have money to buy fuel to go through that long alternative route to work. We are, therefore, appealing to the government to come to our aid and reconstruct the damaged bridge to bring relief to users”.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic, the assembly member said the collapse of the bridge had affected the residents in several ways and that there was the need for the bridge to be reconstructed to bring relief to the people.
He stated that workers who crossed the river to work at the Manyoro side of the bridge, as well as farmers who also crossed to either side of the bridge to engage in their farming activity now could not do so.
He said “due to the collapse of the bridge, farmers who hitherto could farm across the river, as well as businessmen and women are unable to travel to Paga and Navrongo to do business”.
“Particularly, students from the area who attend the Paga Community Day School cannot cross the river on a daily basis to go to school, with its attendant negative consequences on their academic performance,” he said.
He noted that prior to the collapse, he wrote several letters to the district assembly to draw their attention to the sad state of the bridge, stressing that “after its unfortunate collapse, I have followed up with a letter, hoping to receive a favourable outcome”.
While urging the government to prioritise the construction of the damaged bridge, he appealed to the district to create an alternative route so that residents could use it to get to their workplaces and other destinations without any difficulty.
Chief addresses media
Navio-Pio Pe Kwarase Asongojem Parejei II speaking during the press conference
Addressing a press conference on the impact of the collapsed bridge on residents, the Chief of Navio, Navio-Pio Pe Kwarase Asongojem Parejei II, made a passionate appeal to the government to treat the bridge’s collapse as an emergency and see to its reconstruction as quickly as possible.
He noted that the residents had been suffering since the collapse of the bridge which was constructed by the late former President, Jerry John Rawlings, and it had not seen any renovation until its fall.
He said “many residents cannot move out of the community, which has negatively affected their economic and social lives and there is the need for the bridge to be reconstructed to enable people to easily go about their normal lives”.
During a recent courtesy call on him at his palace by Vice-President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, the Paramount Chief of the Paga Traditional Area, Paga-Pio, Pe Charles Awiah Awampaga II, said, "We urgently need this bridge to enhance economic activities on that stretch, as well as enable farmers to cart their farm produce to the market.”
For his part, the District Chief Executive for the Kassena Nankana West District, Gerard Ataogye, after the collapse of the bridge said in an interview that “luckily, the road has been captured under feeder roads project and will soon be packaged and awarded, which will also include the reconstruction of the steel bridge”.