Garbage dumped near the Clifton bridge.–Photo by White Star.

KARACHI: Bridges are meant to shorten distances, help commuters and connect areas in a way that they become part of one, holistic culture.

The Clifton Bridge has multiple significances. It is a historic work of construction built more than a century ago, is one of the first bridges to be erected in the southern district of the city and is, probably, the most sturdily built bridge in the city. But, as it has generally been observed, these days the overpass is in appalling condition and if due attention is not paid to it by the authorities concerned soon enough, it will gradually disintegrate (if it has not started to disintegrate already) causing damage to the stone used in its making.

A visit to the facility and a closer look at the set of steps made for the pedestrians to go up or down the bridge is reason enough to ring alarm bells for those associated with town planning and preserving historic places. If one is on the bridge and intends to climb down (or vice versa), the first thing that will greet him is the foul stench of urine. Drug addicts and even some regular pedestrians use the base of the bridge closer to the first flight of stairs as a lavatory. They urinate and even defecate near without caring much about the surrounding or who’s watching them. The stink is so stifling that it makes it near impossible to stay there for a descent stretch of time.

The arched openings under the bridge must have been a sight to behold in the days gone by. They were made keeping in mind the tough weather conditions in the city. But today they are crammed with garbage and other kinds of waste material. One of the openings has been blocked by someone with thorny bushes from both ends, perhaps to prevent them from being littered… to no avail. And it goes without saying that wall chalking and graffiti too make their presence felt.

Talking to Dawn, renowned architect and conservationist Yasmeen Lari said: “We need to get down on our knees and hands and start working. It is tough. We as civil society should do something about it. The damage can be controlled in many cases. One way of doing it is that we start a process of adoption of sites either by civil society organisations or educational institutions. A lot can be done in trying to work together. We should not just clean up but maintain the sites as well. It is part of the whole cultural process. Unless you raise a voice, bad things will keep happening. All these heritage sites are being destroyed because when water accumulates, moisture starts collecting and impacts negatively on the foundations of the buildings. The stone too begins to disintegrate. Therefore we must keep the area clean and there should be no accumulation of water.

“Another step that the authorities concerned should take is that they should start putting some toilets in the city,” said Ms Lari.

It’s about time they did!

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