- Country's lone ropeway in Sylhet's Companignaj remains shut for the last six years
- Sylhet chamber writes to the railways ministry to hand over the ropeway to the tourism ministry
- 359 acres of Bangladesh Railway's land allotted for the ropeway occupied by grabbers
- 19.20km ropeway stretching from Chhatak to Bholaganj started operation in 1970
- Initially, it started carrying stones with 425 boxes
- After boxes were stolen due to lack of proper maintenance, now only 100 boxes remain
- Many equipment of the facility have also been stolen in the last few years
The country's only ropeway, which was built to transport stones from Bholaganj stone quarry in Sylhet to Chhatak of Sunamganj, has been closed for six years and is now under threat.
As it was not reopened after the last closure in 2014, many equipment of the facility are being stolen. Additionally, the bunker of the ropeway is at risk and the poles are tilted due to illegal extraction of stones from this railway land.
Meanwhile, 359 acres of railway land allotted for the ropeway has also been grabbed by illegal stone extractors.
In this situation, the Sylhet Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) has written to the railway ministry, requesting it to hand over the ropeway to the tourism ministry for drawing tourists' attraction.
The decision on whether it will be reopened will be made at the next cabinet meeting
During a visit to the ropeway and railway land in February this year, Railways Minister Md Nurul Islam Sujan said the context in which it was installed was no longer there.
"But it is a part of our heritage. The decision on whether it will be reopened will be made at the next cabinet meeting."
Abu Taher Md Shoeb, president of the SCCI, said there was no road connection with Bholaganj when the ropeway was installed.
"But now road communication is easy. This facility can now be used in the tourism sector without ruining it."
He said travelling through the ropeway would be a very interesting and exciting trip for tourists.
"A lot of tourists will flock here if we arrange the ropeway for them to see the beauty of the Meghalaya hills and the River Piain. So, we recently sent a letter to the railways minister, requesting him to hand over this facility to the tourism ministry."
A lot of tourists will flock here if we arrange the ropeway for them to see the beauty of the Meghalaya hills and the River Piain. So, we recently sent a letter to the railways minister, requesting him to hand over this facility to the tourism ministry
Railway sources said the East Pakistan Railway started construction of the 19.20km long ropeway from Bholaganj to Chhatak in 1964 as an alternative to roadways and waterways to transport stones from Bholaganj stone quarry, located in Companiganj upazila of Sylhet.
The ropeway which is based on 119 poles became operational in the early 1970s. Stones weighing 600 kilogrammes were transported in each box with wires drawn on the poles.
As the ropeway was damaged during the war of liberation in 1971, it was closed for eight consecutive years. After renovation, it was opened from 1989-80 financial year, but from the following year, the facility was kept open only during the monsoon season.
From the financial year 1990-91, transportation of stones by the ropeway became irregular. After reopening in 2011, another pole broke down in 2014, leaving the ropeway closed ever since.
In a visit to the ropeway area in Bholaganj, this correspondent found that large holes have been created and almost all the poles have been tilted due to the unplanned extraction of stones near the bunker. Many equipment of the facility have also been stolen in the last few years.
Initially, the ropeway started its operation with 425 boxes, but now only about a hundred remain.
Ansar men were assigned for security and maintenance of the ropeway and the railway land in 2000. However, there are allegations that stone traders grabbed the railway land in complicity with Ansar men.
Since 2012, the Railway Nirapatta Bahini (RNB) has been in charge of maintenance, but looting has not stopped.
At a meeting in 2014, the district administration and the railway authorities decided to conserve the ropeway as a monument of heritage. However, no conservation initiative has been taken so far.
Abdun Noor, deputy assistant engineer at Chhatak office of the railways, who is in charge of the ropeway, said a team of 47 RNB members was guarding the facility.
Due to the closure of the ropeway and because of the stone-lifting syndicate, many of the rail resources here are being damaged
"However, due to the closure of the ropeway and because of the stone-lifting syndicate, many of the rail resources here are being damaged."
He sought cooperation of all quarters to protect those.
Noor said the higher authorities would decide whether the ropeway would be operational again.
Companiganj Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Sumanta Banerjee said the railways' own security personnel are in charge of the safety of the facility. "If they want, the administration will cooperate with them."