Cross a rickety bridge or risk an elephant attack? Locals in Dehiattakandiya forced to choose

Cross a rickety bridge or risk an elephant attack? Locals in Dehiattakandiya forced to choose

Written by Staff Writer

05 Feb, 2023 | 11:05 pm

Colombo (News1st) – Imagine having to risk your life and the lives of your family, just to get to work, or to school, or to rush a patient to hospital.

Imagine living a life where you have to make a daily choice between possibly being killed by herds of wild elephants or falling to your death off a rickety wooden bridge with rotting planks that could give way at any moment.

This may not be easy for people who live in cities to understand. But this is the harsh daily reality for the 300 families who live in the villages of Pussalavinna and Sooriyapokuna in the Dehiaththakandiya region, on the border of the Maduru Oya National Park.

This bridge is the shortest route for children to go to school and connects the two villages to the town. 

The dilapidated state of this bridge has left the 300 families living here in dire straits because they must gamble with their lives every time they cross this bridge when it rains. 

Residents who have been battered for decades by the Human Elephant Conflict, don't have a proper road to travel on. "We can't go to the hospital. People can't cross this bridge. Children have fallen off this bridge. The bridge is slippery when it rains," one villager cried. "We have to take the long route and travel about 5 km more when we take our harvest to our homes," another lamented.

The fact that the other road leading to the school in the village is located close to the Maduruoya forest reserve, which is also 5 km longer, has left these children exposed to wild elephant attacks. 

These children opt to cross this bridge despite the risks involved, as an encounter with a wild elephant while traveling on the other road could mean death. 

The fervent plea of these long-suffering people is for the government authorities to build a proper bridge that they and their children can cross safely, so that they and their loved ones don’t have to risk death every day.

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