A year after the collapse of a bridge over the Banab River in northern Papua New Guinea, the crossing is finally on the verge of reopening.The bridge, a vital link between provincial capital Madang and agricultural areas to the north, has become a symbol of the central government’s neglect of rural areas.The state’s failure to provide infrastructure has led some communities to welcome extractive industries that promise to build roads, schools and hospitals. MADANG, Papua New Guinea — On the banks of the Banab River in Papua New Guinea’s northern province of Madang, rows of makeshift wooden shops, eateries and huts have popped up alongside the remnants of a bridge that collapsed a year ago. Since January 2018, locals have had to make do with crossing the Banab on foot along a makeshift wooden bridge or via a series of small boats that ferry people between the banks, both costing 2 kina (60 U.S. cents) per crossing. The only alternate for large vehicles involves a drive inland along an abandoned logging road and a crossing over backfilled creeks, an option that can only be safely attempted in dry weather. Until late last year, stacks of prefabricated metal slated for the bridge’s repairs had been seemingly abandoned by government contractors on the side of the road near the southern bank of the river. According to locals, the materials had been there since July. It took a year for this portable, pre-fabricated bridge to be put in place to replace the collapsed Banab River crossing. Contractors say it will open for traffic on Jan. 26. The makeshift footbridge remains in place. Image by Marius Made. Now, contractors employed by the central government say the bridge is finally on the verge of reopening, with the replacement coming in the form of a temporary Bailey bridge, a prefabricated and portable design. According to local media, the current construction company is the second to be contracted after the initial one “allegedly failed to carry out the work.” The Banab bridge isn’t some minor crossing in a sparsely populated part of PNG. The 88-meter (290-foot) structure is a vital link along PNG’s sole northern highway, connecting more than half a million people in Madang’s northern region to the province’s eponymous capital to the south. For the predominantly agricultural communities in the area, the crossing also connects them to key markets of Lae, the country’s second-largest city, and the densely populated highlands. When compared to the investment in infrastructure in PNG’s urban centers, the delays in repairing the Banab bridge are seen by locals as reflecting not only mismanagement and alleged corruption by the government, but also the continued neglect of rural areas where more than 80 percent of the country’s population lives.