Story in Pictures

Spit and span

Why Kolkata’s Howrah Bridge needs to be covered with fibre-glass hoods

Sandipan Chatterjee

The iconic 70-year-old, 1,500-feet long Howrah Bridge — officially known as Rabindra Setu and the world’s sixth-longest cantilever bridge built without a single screw — is rotting, thanks to gutkha-chewers. The 26,500-tonne steel bridge, which connects the twin cities of Howrah and Kolkata and is used by over 500,000 pedestrians and over 110,000 vehicles a day, is held by hangers on each side. According to the Kolkata Port Trust, which spent ₹2.57 crore in FY13 for maintaining the bridge, gutkha-laced spit has corroded the 6 mm thick steel plates in the hangers by almost 50%. The trust has now decided to spend an additional ₹15 lakh to cover the base of the 86 hangers with fibre-glass hoods to prevent further decay. The trust hopes to generate revenues by renting out advertising space on the hoods.