Dindo bridge brings towns together

Click on thumbnail to enlarge

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.
UNHCR
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.
MND-SE G9
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 in steps.
"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," added Villamil.
Engineers
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.

Related links:
Nations of SFOR: Spain
CIMIC, Engineering - bridge stories

Click on thumbnail to enlarge
Photo: Lt. Antonio Ruiz González

From a bird's eye view, Dindo bridge over the Ljuta River.


Click on thumbnail to enlarge
Photo: Courtesy MND-SE Engineer Unit

A dozer removes stones from the road to Kalinovic.


Click on thumbnail to enlarge
Photo: Lt. Antonio Ruiz González

Capt. Angel Ramos García, SFOR Liaison Officer with RRTF (Reconstruction and Return Task Force), talks about the progress of the job with Staff Sgt. Damián Blanco León.


Click on thumbnail to enlarge
Photo: Courtesy MND-SE Engineer Unit

Dozers are used to widen the shoulder width of the road.


Click on thumbnail to enlarge
Photo: Lt. Antonio Ruiz González

The west slab collapsed over the pillar when the bridge was destroyed.


Click on thumbnail to enlarge
Photo: Lt. Antonio Ruiz González

Staff Sgt. Damián Blanco León, task force leader, checks the alternative crossing of the river with one of his light, four-wheel drive vehicles.