The $2.9 million reconstruction project aims to revive the local economy and improve access to basic social services in some of the most challenging areas of Pakistan, including Kalam district.
"The construction of these eight bridges will connect local communities," said Arif Khan, Assistant Commissioner of Bahrain village, in the Swat district, adding that: "Children will be able to go to school, sick people will be able to access clinics and farmers will be able to easily transport vegetables."
Currently in its first phase, this two-year project aims to rebuild eight pedestrian bridges and two irrigation canals servicing 25,000 acres of agricultural land, directly benefitting over 21,000 local residents.
Kalam was one of several districts in Pakistan ravaged by the torrential rains and flash floods that hit the country in 2010 – the deadliest in decades. The floods caused major damage to surrounding infrastructure, destroying irrigation systems and washing away bridges that connected locals to social services. This greatly disrupted agricultural activities and livelihoods in the area, including those linked to the local hotel industry, which had long served as an important generator of revenue for people in Kalam.
"Our land is fertile and once our irrigation channels are rehabilitated, we will be able to grow more vegetables," said Bahadar Khan, a local farmer.
The completion of the work will significantly improve access to social services, such as making it easier for children to reach schools across the river. It is also expected to promote local economic growth, including the revival of the local tourism industry.
At present, UNOPS is the only UN entity directly implementing infrastructure projects in the tough and harsh environment of Kalam, on behalf of the Saudi Fund for Development.