Conservationists voice concern over poor upkeep of historic Sethi Bridge

Published September 20, 2019
A view of the Mughal-era Sethi Bridge. — Dawn
A view of the Mughal-era Sethi Bridge. — Dawn

PESHAWAR: Sethi Bridge is situated in the village Choha Gujar at a distance of 7km from GT Road. The village has a few historic ‘Boalies’, (traditional step-well), which were built by Sher Shah Suri along the famous Grand Trunk road in the 16th Century.

According to record, it is Mughal-era heritage built during Shah Jehan’s rule in 1629, while “some sources credit its construction to Elahi Buksh Sethi, a famous businessman in the latter half of 19th century. It displays a unique blend of architecture which is vigorous, magnificent and serene in character, withstanding the tides of time and tumbling floods of Bara River”, said Architect Mohammad Khalid.

The significantfeature is the massive pillars of the bridge. These are cylindrical in form, half protruded from massive masonry and towers mounted by bulbous mini-domes, resemble Kos-Minar which were used as milestones during Mughal period.

The Mughal-style pointed arch like vault is the enchanting feature of the bridge. The vaults between every two pillars allow the meandering Bara River to pass through it.

Besides, the natural resources also have potential to promote tourism. Bara River is a source fertility for farming with fascinating history. Bara proper originates from valley lying on the southern side of Khyber hills, but receives the greater part of its volume as it flows into Peshawar from another stream, the Tirah Toi, which collects the water drainage of Tirah valley.

Natural features landscape and vegetation offers a delightful view of the village area. The lush green grassy fields along the river bank contrast with reddish water of river. The meandering paths, green fields and orchards of peach, plum and apricot augment its beauty.

The most outstanding feature of the landscape is an ancient and huge banyan tree located at a distance of 100-yards from the eastern end of the bridge. The tree which has a trunk of 100 feet, according to a legend, dates back to the Gandhara period.

Dumping of solid waste by municipal authorities into the Bara River is a source of pollution and infectious diseases affecting the local community. The supply chain of fruit and vegetables is also being contaminated having adverse impact on the health of consumers.

Heritage expert Ms Fareeda Nishtar suggests: “In Europe many old rural settings of gardens, towns and villages are a huge tourist attraction. Karawan and National Heritage Council should jointly explore with the tourism department the idea of setting nature park. This will transform the entire area and breathe lifeinto it and will be perfect setting for the heritage bridge.”

The relevant government departments and community elders should take steps to remove the garbage. WSSP, environment department and directorate of archaeology are key stakeholders.

The Mughal-era bridge and banyan tree deserve being listed as valuable heritage assets.

Published in Dawn, September 20th, 2019

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