“If we manage to clean all the roadside drains and jhoras before the monsoons there is 50 per cent less chance of natural calamities (striking the areas). Most of the slides in East Sikkim had taken place when garbage blocked the drains and jhoras,” said East district collector D. Anandan during a pre-monsoon meeting here today.
Representatives of various departments including fire, civil defence, urban development, forest, power, PHE, police and the Border Roads Organisation attended the meeting. Monsoon in Sikkim usually begins in the second week of June and lasts till late September.
The district collector said water overflowing from the drains during the monsoon often gets blocked by garbage creating slush and triggering landslides. If the garbage is cleaned then the water can flow freely reducing chances of a mudslide.
Anandan is also the chairman of the district level relief committee that hands out compensation and sanctions for temporary restoration under the natural calamity funds. Last year the committee had sanctioned 163 projects for the restoration of damaged roads, telephone and power poles in the landslide affected areas of East Sikkim. Each project was of around Rs 50,000.
Multiple mudslides along NH31A between Gangtok and Rangpo in July last year had damaged the road for almost two weeks.
“Since maintenance of roads in urban areas is the responsibility of the urban development department, the department should clean up road side drains under its jurisdiction. Similarly, those jhoras in the urban areas which have not been cleaned by the civic body shall be cleaned for free flow of storm water,” said Anandan. He has also directed the BRO to clear drains along the area under its jurisdiction. Project Swastik of the BRO is responsible for the maintenance of NH31A, the North Sikkim highway, and the Jawaharlal Nehru Marg that connects Gangtok to Nathu-la. The district collector added that the BRO has been directed to build proper drains and take precautionary measures to limit chances of slides during road widening work.
The PHE department has been instructed to regulate the pipelines being laid down along the drains. The forest department has been asked to conduct a survey to identify trees, especially along NH31A, that are likely to fall during the monsoon.
“These trees should be removed at the earliest and resistance to remove such trees from private holdings shall be dealt (with) legally,” said Anandan.
The superintendent of police (East district) Mandeep Singh Tuli said a road block on the highway causes congestion in the town. “If there is a block for even 30 minutes on the highway, the traffic jam in Gangtok extends for almost 12km up to Ranipool,” he said.
The district collector said the administration will write to the BSNL authorities. “We will be writing to the BSNL authorities for ensuring good communication network which is very essential for timely rescue and relief measures. The BSNL should ensure that communications are always intact. They should also immediately restore telephone services disrupted because of natural calamities.”
All agencies have been directed to prepare their own line of action for responding to disasters. “In case of a distress call, the departments should be ready with their set of measures to be undertaken instead of coming up with impromptu arrangements,” said Anandan.