The age-old Keane Bridge in Sylhet has been made off-limits to vehicles, taking into consideration its fragile structure.
On September 1, Sylhet City Corporation (SCC) imposed a ban on plying of all modes of vehicles over the bridge, with immediate effect.
As the bridge grew old and risky, the authorities concerned disbanded plying of heavy vehicles on the bridge in 2010. But the lighter ones, such as rickshaws, cycles and motorcycles were allowed to use the bridge.
With the recent decision, no vehicles will be allowed to ply the bridge. SCC installed iron structures on both sides of the bridge on September 1, barring all the vehicles from using the bridge.
The bridge - whose longevity locals think has long expired - is being renovated now. Though the city corporation is now saying that they have barred vehicular movement for carrying out renovation work, sources in the SCC have said they are planning to stop vehicular movement on the bridge permanently to protect the historic structure from further decay.
The city corporation is considering allowing residents to cross the bridge on foot only after the renovation. If the decision is implemented, the 1,150-foot bridge might turn into one of the longest footbridge.
On September 3, US Ambassador to Bangladesh Earl R Miller, along with SCC Mayor Ariful Haque Chowdhury, visited the bridge and opined that the bridge should be made off-limits to all modes of vehicles to protect the heritage structure.
The bridge -- otherwise known as the gateway to Sylhet city -- was built in 1936 on the Surma, and was named after Sir Michael Keane, who was the English governor of Assam from 1932 to 1937.
It is made of iron and steel and looks like a bow. During the 1971 Liberation War, part of the bridge was blown away with dynamites by the Pakistan Army. It was repaired in 1977.
SCC Chief Engineer Nur Azizur Rahman said, “Taking into consideration the age and condition of the bridge, we gave a proposal to Roads and Highways Department to turn the bridge into a footbridge. They have agreed to the proposal.”
“After further inspection during renovation work, the decision on whether to make the bridge permanently off-limits to vehicles will be taken.”
Echoing the chief engineer, SCC Mayor Ariful Haque said the Keane Bridge is a “symbol of Sylhet”, and therefore, it has to be protected from further decay.
“I also want the bridge to be turned into a footbridge,” the mayor added.