Saturday, March 30, 2024

The National Highway 10 (NH10 - Siliguri to Gangtok) maintenance problem (post GLOF) begins in Mar2024

NH10 and Likhu Bhir in 2017 & 2023

MoRTH website on NH10
reads as follows:
'The highway starting from Indo / Bangladesh Border connecting Fulbari Siliguri in the State of West Bengal connecting Sivok, Kalimpang near N.H-10 and terminating at Gangtok in the State of Sikkim'. 52kms of the highway is in Sikkim, the remaining 65.97kms being in W Bengal.
Further to our earlier report on National Highway 10 (NH10), the recent rains in our region caused landslides along parts of NH10 which resulted in road blockages and traffic jams and as such the Kalimpong District Administration has closed parts of NH10 for traffic as per the letter below:

Prolonged closure of NH10 dates
Road closures for several hours on NH10 due to landslips, erosion and rockfalls etc are commonplace and take place almost daily during the monsoons. Prolonged closure dates of the highway in the recent past are as follows:-
* In 2007 and 11Jun2010 at HaatiSurey, near Coronation bridge – blocked for a week.
* 26Jun-03Jul2015 due to landslide at SetiJhora (near TLDP IV)
* 14-15Jan 2016 due to landslide at BhoteyBhir (near Rangpo)
* 06Jul2019 for almost a week at Seti Jhora

Despite several alternate routes now being available (see map below), NH10 remains the shortest distance with the least gradient changes and is the quickest way to commute from Sikkim and Kalimpong to SIliguri and the plains of North Bengal - however, it may not be the safest route anymore.

NH10 and alternate routes

DATA ON NH10 (and the alternate routes from Gangtok and Kalimpong to Siliguri)

Distances - Siliguri to Gangtok
Via NH10 - 114kms out of which approx 90kms is in mountainous terrain. Approx 60kms from Singtam to Sevoke is along the banks of the Teesta river.
a. Alternate route 1 (via Pakyong- Reshi-Algarah-Lava-Sevoke-Siliguri) - 241kms
b. Alternate route 2 (via Rangpo-Chitrey-Kalimpong-Algarah-Lava-Sevoke-Siliguri)  - 205kms

Distances- Kalimpong to Siliguri  
Via NH10 - 67kms
a. Alternate route 1 (via Ghoom -Kurseong) - 99kms
b. Alternate route 2 (via Algarah-Lava- Gorubathan-Sevoke) - 132kms
c. Alternate route 3 (across Relli river- Samthar- Panbu-Kalijhora-Sevoke)

It is estimated that approximately 3000 vehicles use the NH10 daily when permitted.

Images of landslide and traffic snarls in that part of the road
Rockfall at Likhu Bhir after rains on 23Mar2024
Traffic jam at Chitrey (Teesta) due to rock fall at Likhu Bhir, 23Nov2024
Traffic jam at Likhu Bhir on 24Jan2024 at around 6pm


As we have reported earlier, Likhu Bhir is an old landslide which was dormant for many years until the GLOF of 04Oct2023 reactivated it.
File photo from July2019

Also as reported, the Teesta river bed has risen by almost 4m all along the valley due to the silt and sand deposits brought down by the GLOF, which makes NH10 much more prone to subsidence/erosion (the TLDP III and IV dam activities and the IRCON tunnelling having contributed their share to making sections of NH10 more prone to subsidence, rockfalls and landslides)

Rainfall (at Kalimpong) from 19Mar to 23Mar2024
It was surprising that very moderate rainfall, after almost 4 months of complete drought could trigger so much instability in the Likhu Bhir area.
Recently, I met a geomorphologist who said that the Oct 2023 Teesta Valley GLOF was the biggest such event in the Himalayas in the recent past. I believe him entirely.

My thanks to our WhatsApp group 'HA' members who's photos I have used :)

Praful Rao
Kalimpong district
Darjeeling-Sikkim Himalaya

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