Tuesday, February 12, 2008

It all looks great on drawing boards in air conditioned offices...

Placed below is an article from the Telegraph today:-

Rethink on NH31A double lane project


Kalimpong, Feb. 11: The proposal to double-lane NH31A from Sevoke to Gangtok is being reconsidered with a special task force of the Union surface transport ministry looking at the possibility of alternative alignments between the two points. This is after the Sikkim government has raised doubts over the feasibility of double-laning the highway as the hills along this stretch are fragile.

During the last monsoon, traffic on the highway was severely disrupted following frequent landslides at various places along the route. According to sources in the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) in New Delhi and the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), the task force, headed by D. Saran, additional director general in the surface transport ministry, has suggested two different alignments.

The first one is proposed along the left bank of the Teesta river from the Teesta bridge to the Coronation Bridge, and the second one on the right bank of the river from Ranipool to the Teetsa bridge.

The search for the new alignment has no connection with the proposal to widen the Damdim-Rishi-Rhenok-Ranipool road, another link between Gangtok and Siliguri.

This road will be widened to national highway single lane specifications as per the requirements of the troops guarding the Sikkim border, said a BRO source.

The original plan was to double-lane NH31A from Sevoke to Nathula. While the BRO has already started work on the Gangtok-Nathula stretch of the highway, it will take more time before the Sevoke-Gangtok work takes off. Notably, the NHAI is supposed to execute the double-laning work between Sevoke and Gangtok.

Environmentalists have breathed a sigh of relief over the ministry’s decision to look for alternative alignment. “It is a sound decision. The hills along the highway are fragile and any attempt to disturb them could prove very costly,” said Vikash Pradhan, an environmental activist.

Comment by Praful Rao
When ever I read some thing about double laning NH31A or some insane proposal like making a railway line from Siliguri to Rangpo (as was mooted last year sometime); I can't help imagining that the planners are a group of suave bureaucrats and engineers huddled over drawing boards in plush air conditioned offices in Delhi - far removed from the ground realities of these mountains.
On paper and slick powerpoint presentations, these grandiose visions of four lane autobahns in the hills may seem totally plausible just as the possibility of a quick victory in the Iraq war must have been to President Bush in 2003 (when the US invaded Iraq).
The reality is that this area experiences some of the heaviest rainfall in the world and it is extremely difficult to maintain the present highway itself let alone a double-laned one.
Last year the NH31A was breached at many, many places from Sevoke to Chitrey, and landslides from Deolo, Bara Bhalukhop, leprosy hospital and the upper reaches of Kalimpong, smashed thru highway at many places between Chitrey and Rangpo. We, in Kalimpong had to suffer shortages, and rise in prices of many commodities for weeks thru the monsoons.
So when I read of such proposals and the inevitable necessity of engineers blasting the mountains apart in order to carve out a double lane NH31A....
I just balk.
As a grim reminder, I have put up some photographs of NH31A from our first tour of the landslides on 14 Sep2007.

1 comment:

Malabei said...
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