Dindo bridge brings towns together
Lt. Antonio Ruiz González
First published in
SFOR Informer#146, August 29, 2002
In the autumn of 1995, the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina
was almost over and the warring parties were holding talks
in Dayton. At that time, a massive blast obliterated the bridge
on the Ljuta river, near Dindo, the main link between Konjic
(Federation) and Kalinovik (Republika Srpska). The Bosniac
Army destroyed the bridge to prevent Bosnian-Serbs tanks from
entering into the Konjic-Neretva valley.
Dindo - The village is located in the southeastern part of
Konjic Municipality at the border to Kalinovik Municipality,
which is also the Inter Entity Boundary Line (IEBL). The area
surrounding the bridge is very mountainous. There is also
a deep ravine where the Ljuta River flows. The east bank,
to Kalinovik, is a winding asphalt road, several kilometres
long, near to the bridge. The terrain on either side of the
track is both rocky and clay. There are also high cliffs towering
over the Neretva River on the way. The west bank, to Konjic,
is less rocky and muddier and it is obvious that the bridge
is the key point in this countryside.
Several international organisations noticed the importance
of the bridge in this area. The United Nations High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR) took the lead for the project. Harry
Leefe, UNHCR Head of Sub Office in Mostar, explained: "After
the signing of the General Framework Agreement for Peace (GFAP),
part of Kalinovik Municipality, the villages of Luko, Brda
and Hotovlje, with a Bosniac, was annexed to the Konjic Municipality.
In May last year, the UNHCR organised a return to the villages
upon the request of certain displaced persons and the people
have stayed, although very little material assistance has
been given," he said.
"The villages are still not connected to the electricity
network and the people have to travel long distances to go
to Konjic; two and a half hours via Kalinovik, Trnovo and
Sarajevo. If the Dindo Bridge is repaired, the time to travel
will be reduced to 45 minutes, which will be more cost effective
for a vulnerable population with limited financial means.
The reconstruction of the bridge would serve as a connection
for people displaced in the surrounding villages, who could,
on a daily basis, travel to their previous homes to prepare
for reconstruction, use their gardens and fields for cultivating
crops and visit their old neighbours," he said.
"Many people from Konjic, Kalinovik and Foca Municipalities
would be able to use this bridge; Bosnian-Serbs now displaced
in Visegrad and Foca, originally from Konjic Municipality
could visit their pre-war homes in Kula and Cicevo villages,
to prepare for their return," said Leefe.
Multinational Division South East (MND-SE) was tasked with
this job. On the request of UNHCR, SFOR will provide a temporary
military Bailey Bridge at the bridging site. MND-SE, in close
co-operation with the European Union is carrying out the mission
"After getting the money, more than 40.000 Euros, we
have completed the second step. The Spanish Engineer Unit
were responsible for clearing both sides of the bridge. The
access roads have to be cleared from rocks, stone and gravel,"
explained Lt. Col. Jürgen Müller, German Army, chief
co-ordination cell at MND-SE, G-9 CIMIC (Civil-Military Co-operation).
"Our next step is to get the adequate civilian contractor
to perform the job, we will choose the best one," said
Capt. Bernardo Villamil Lamas, Spanish Army, from divisional
G9 CIMIC. "The contractor will have to reinforce the
centre-pillar and the abutment on the west bank, to Konjic,
as well as to fix the remaining parts of the destroyed bridge,"
Other troops from the division were also involved. The French
Battle Group (FRBG) provided security for two weeks in the
field while signal troops linked all the sites. Logistical
assets such as food, water and accommodation on the site were
provided by Divisional Logistics. Furthermore, the EOD (Explosive
Ordnance Disposal) team checked the working area.
"After the civilian contractor finishes up his job, the
next step will be to bring the Bailey Bridge from Ploce, where
it is stored, to Dindo and launch it," added Maj. Iñigo
Laquidaín Hergueta, Spanish Army, G-3 Engineer Chief,
whose office monitors and co-ordinates the technical works.
Twenty one kilometres of road needs to be cleared to provide
better access to the bridge. This will allow the contractors
construction assets to be transported, as well as the bridge
parts to be taken to their location.
Staff Sgt. Damián Blanco León, Spanish Engineers
Unit, leads the task force.
"They [locals] come to their fields but never cross the
river. It is like the world finishes here," said Blanco
while standing on the destroyed bank of the bridge.
"We are working hard on both sides. But on the west bank,
to Konjic, more and more because of the last rainfall. There
were huge stones on the road. Also, we need a wide square
here in order to allow the movements of the lorries and the
platform," said Blanco, talking about the large lorries
that will transport the Bailey Bridge and the platform that
is required to launch the bridge.
The original bridge, measures 73.5 metres in length and was
built to support heavy vehicles, such as tanks. Thus, both
sides of the bridge were built in the same condition.
"It is clear that they [former Yugoslavia] did a great
job here, but weather conditions are so extreme that no road
can resist without adequate maintenance," he added.
"I see them [locals] very interested about how the job
is going. Almost every day they visit us. I think the bridge
will benefit a lot of people around the area, and this is
great," concluded Blanco cheerfully.
Nations of SFOR: Spain
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