Howrah Bridge is falling down

Rarely does news get as bizarre as this. Can you imagine Howrah Bridge falling down, because 67 years of spit (yes spit) has corroded the steel?

But that's what The Telegraph reports.

Officials of Calcutta Port Trust, the custodian of the 67-year-old bridge that bears the weight of over a lakh vehicles every day, said the commuters’ collective spit power had reduced the thickness of the steel hoods protecting the pillars from six to three millimetre since 2007.

Forensic sciences expert Biswanath Kahali confirmed that accumulation of gutkha-laced spit on steel would have the same effect that acid has.

“Slaked lime combined with catechu and tannin, which are all components of gutkha, form an organic compound that acts as a corrosive agent on a steel surface. In combination, these substances can gradually corrode a steel structure,” added Kahali.

A port trust official said the base of all 78 hangers had suffered extensive damage over the years with pedestrians passing by treating the bridge as a spittoon. “These hangers help transfer the load of the bridge from the deck to the girders. So any damage to the hangers constitutes a threat to the safety of the bridge,” an official said.

It was so strongly tempting to write some parody of this, so I yielded to it. Here goes:

Howrah Bridge is falling down,
Falling down, falling down.
Howrah Bridge is falling down,
My fair bhadralok*.

It's iron and steel doth corrode,
doth corrode, doth corrode,
Eaten up by gutkha spit,
My fair bhadralok.

Build it up with iron and steel,
Set men to watch it day and night,
And stop all sales of gutkha dear,
My fair bhadralok.

*Bangla for 'gentleman'.


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