Rehabilitate weak Pwalugu bridge - Commercial drivers, residents appeal to government

BY: Vincent Amenuveve
 A portion of the Pwalugu bridge partially damaged by vehicles that crashed into the metal frame
A portion of the Pwalugu bridge partially damaged by vehicles that crashed into the metal frame

Some commercial drivers, farmers and residents of Pwalugu in the Talensi District in the Upper East Region have called on the government to urgently consider rehabilitating the Pwalugu Volta bridge on the main Tamale-Bolgatanga highway.

They describe the bridge as “weak and vibrates” anytime heavy duty trucks, particularly, use it. They further observed that there was the need for the height of the bridge to be raised to prevent flooding, especially during the rainy season and whenever there was spillage from the Bagre Dam in Burkina Faso.

The Pwalugu Volta bridge was constructed in 1975. It is a triple span truss bridge with two walkways and it is about 120 meters long.

During the rainy season last year, some motorists and commuters, using the Pwalugu bridge stretch of the Tamale-Bolgatanga road, had difficulty wading through floodwaters and some community volunteers had to guide them to avoid any disaster.

Commercial drivers, farmers

Three commercial drivers, Messrs Ayinguda Atiah, Musah Kadiri and Dominic Awuni, all of whom have been driving between 15 and 24 years on the Accra-Paga-Ouagadougou highway, stressed that it was equally important for the authorities to take a second look at the weight and load levels of heavy duty trucks, to save the bridge from collapsing.

Another suggestion they made was that the bridge should be fixed with stronger and more durable materials to be able to carry more loads.

Mr Awuni, who has been an international driver for the past 24 years and pleaded to speak off-camera, noted that it was also important to rehabilitate the Nasia bridge in the North East Region.

A 57-year-old farmer and trader, Mr Zacheus Aleda, who is also known as Nkomode, said he was born and bred at Pwalugu and that he witnessed flooding last year that slowed down both vehicular and human traffic in the Pwalugu bridge area.

“Since I was born, I have never seen a thing like that before to the extent that motor riders and other travellers could not wade through the floodwater to cross the bridge and for me it means the government has to do something fast to raise the height of the bridge before any disaster strikes in the future,” he stated.

Mr Aleda, who cultivates watermelon, yellow melon, tomatoes and onion, further indicated that it was important for the bridge to be rehabilitated because he realised that anytime vehicles with heavy loads used the bridge, it vibrated. He observed that pedestrians using the walkways provided at both sides of the bridge experienced the vibration anytime heavy duty trucks used it and “this is quite scary".

The farmer also said that recently some two vehicles crashed into the bridge, which had further weakened some of the metal frames holding the bridge.

“When you are on the pavement walking and there is a vehicle passing, you can feel the bridge shaking; in fact, the irons used to construct the bridge are gradually giving up," Mr Aleda pointed out.

Pipeline project, bridges

On May 23, 2021, a press briefing, held by the Ministry of Roads and Highways, captured the construction of a bridge over the White Volta River on the Tamale-Bolgatanga highway under pipeline projects.

However, experts say rehabilitation of the Pwalugu Volta bridge or the construction of a new one should be done urgently.

When contacted, the Upper East Regional Director of the Ghana Highway Authority (GHA), Mr Philip Samwini, suggested that the Pwalugu bridge was “weak and it must be fixed now”.

He explained that the bridge was located on an international route and was very important in ensuring that medical supplies, food stuff and other consumable items, were conveyed to serve a huge population including those in the Sahelian region.

Mr Samwini indicated that if nothing was done to fix the bridge and it eventually collapsed, it would cut off significant parts of the Upper East Region.

He further advised stakeholders, including those constructing the Pwalugu multipurpose dam, to liaise with the GHA and other relevant institutions to find ways of upgrading the Pwalugu bridge.

He said if that was done, in the event that the dam failed and it could no longer contain the large volumes of water, the bridge would not be flooded and perhaps be damaged by flood water.

“Every engineering structure can fail and so those things must be put into consideration; bolts and nuts can fail and when there is load it can lead to collapse of the bridge," he further stated.

Touching on other bridges in the region, Mr Samwini intimated that four bridges were being provided by the government. They are located at Kulungugu, Tamne in the Garu District, Doninga and Santedjan over River Sisili in the Builsa South District.