Friday, June 10, 2011

Monsoon worry for hill roads - From the Telegraph today.

Kurseong, June 9: Residents of Kurseong and Darjeeling are worried about the bad condition of the two main roads, connecting the places to Siliguri, that are likely to worsen during the monsoon.
Of the two stretches, NH55 also called the Tenzing Norgay Marg, has been shut since June after a landslide near Paglajhora damaged a stretch on the highway.
Although vehicles are plying Rohini Road, the stretch looks nothing more than a dirt track. A few days of heavy showers can make the road unusable even for light vehicles.
If both these stetches are shut during the rains, the only other Siliguri-Kurseong-Darjeeling road link will be the Pankhabari Road. However, since the route is narrow and steep at several places only small vehicles can ply the route.
Heavy vehicles like trucks carrying essential commodities to Kurseong and Darjeeling will then have to take the circuitous Siliguri-Kalijhora-Mungpoo road.
The detour takes around two hours more. Normally the journey to Kurseong and Darjeeling can be completed in around three hours.
Local residents blame the heavily loaded trucks for turning Rohini Road into a potholed dirt track.
“The up-bound trucks are supposed to take the Mungpoo Road but they do not do so. Most of them drive up to the hills in the night,” said S. Pradhan, the secretary of the Janmukti Chalak Mahasangh, Kurseong, a unit of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha.He said they would meet Morcha president Bimal Gurung and apprise him of the condition of the roads. “We have already requested the three MLAs from the hills to raise the matter in the next session of the state Assembly,” Pradhan said.
However, since the monsoon has already arrived, it is unlikely that major repair works on the Rohini Road would be taken up now.
The highway (NH55) is in no better shape because the landslide prone area near Paglajhora, which is also a sinking zone, will again get affected once the rains start.
Although the PWD (NH division-9), which maintains the road, said the 475-metre stretch on the road that was breached after the mudslide has been reconstructed, driving through it is unsafe as huge boulders keep falling on the road from the hill side.
“The road is not safe for driving. We are, however, confident that breaches on the road will not occur again,” said Nirmal Mandal, the executive engineer of PWD (NH Division-9).
Residents of the area are, however, worried about the condition of the highway which they think will worsen once it starts raining. They are also apprehensive that the prices of commodities would rise since the vehicles have to take a detour to reach the destinations.
“What were the people responsible for maintaining the roads doing during the dry season? They should have repaired the road before the onset of the monsoon. They should actually compensate for the additional expense that we will have to incur due to the rise in the prices of essential commodities once both the roads are closed,” said Robin Thapa, a resident of Dow Hill.

Comment by Praful Rao
STH has blogged about the landslide at Paglajhora after visiting the place on 10May2011

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