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Disrespected damaged 383-year-old Ribandar causeway still stands strong

Panaji: The 383-year-old Ponte de Linhares bridge or Ribandar causeway, once considered as the longest bridge in Asia, is also perhaps the oldest one in India, and it can survive a few more years if light traffic moves cautiously over it, sources said.

The collapse of the abandoned foot bridge in Sanvordem on Thursday has drawn focus on old links in other places and the Ribandar bridge is surely the first one to be under the scanner.

The bridge, which was built in 1634 for horse drawn carriages, has withstood the devastation of time, neglect and heavy vehicular traffic and qualifies easily as a wonder of civil engineering and architecture.

While the Nehru bridge, across River Mandovi, collapsed within 17 years of its construction and had to rehabilitated for light traffic, the Ribandar causeway continues to be a heritage landmark and is still being used by light vehicles.

"The North Goa collector had declared it unsafe for heavy vehicular traffic," PWD principal chief engineer Uttam Parsekar said.

Prior to Liberation and even much later, cars and other light vehicles mostly used this important link which was built during the tenure of the Portuguese Viceroy Conde de Linhares Dom Miguel de Noronha. But, around two decades ago, a heavy vehicle damaged one of the culverts on the Ribandar side.

"The bridge is safe for light vehicles and is kept open for such traffic with restrictions," another PWD official said.

The Ponte de Linhares causeway originally spanned 3.2-km from the general post office in Panaji, and included the Patto bridge with approach roads on both sides and the straight Patto bridge on the southern bank of River Mandovi. The task force constituted by the government to draft the Regional Plan 2021 had even included the state's oldest bridge in a list of heritage landscapes along with some forts and other landmarks.

But citizens allege that the historic bridge is not accorded the respect it deserves. Very few are seen observing the rules and it has become an accident-prone zone. Many lives have been lost in mishaps largely due to reckless motorists.

"Being a narrow bridge, it has to be protected from damage by vehicles speeding on the causeway," says John Coutinho, a Ribandar resident. But an official from the traffic cell said that booking speeding motorists is difficult on the narrow causeway. "It would block the flow of traffic," the official said.

Signage showing speed limits of 40km per hour and restriction in overtaking have been displayed along the bridge. But reckless driving on the narrow passage continues.

Passage of time and damage caused by speeding vehicles showed up in the form of cracks. A small stretch of it started sagging more than five years ago. In June 2014, the PWD repaired the 50m crumbling portion but cracks and stress lines have reappeared.

Chief minister Manohar Parrikar had announced in May 2014 that the government was considering a proposal for a new parallel bridge on the line of Patto causeway along the river to avoid mangroves and salt pans.

The old causeway could be used by cyclists and pedestrians, he had stated.

PWD had plans to beautify the heritage bridge, but not much is known about the progress of the project.

"The four-lane Old Goa bypass is ready and congestion on the Ribandar bridge, also known as the Patto causeway, has decreased now," a PWD official said.


Source: Disrespected damaged 383-year-old Ribandar causeway still stands strong

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