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Landslides cutting off crucial Bengal-Sikkim road link

Landslides cutting off crucial Bengal-Sikkim road link
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Kolkata: Frequent landslides causing massive damage at different points of the 50 km stretch of the crucial National Highway 10 in between Sevoke and Rangpo Bridge along river Teesta has come up as a major cause of concern for the state government.

The highway is crucial as it serves as the lifeline

for Sikkim and Kalimpong, besides its strategic significance in terms of the country's security.

The National Highway (NH) wing of the state Public Works Department that has taken over the charge of maintenance of the stretch of this important thoroughfare from the Border Road Organisation four years ago, claimed that frequent fluctuation of water level in this part of river Teesta due to construction of two low dams at Kalijhora and Rambi by the National Hydel Power Corporation (NHPC) is the sole reason behind the

frequent landslides (in the valley side) that is damaging the stretch.

NHPC authorities, however, held the poor drainage system on the road as the main reason behind the same.

Both the PWD and NHPC authorities also held the ongoing tunneling work for railway's project as another reason behind the frequent damage of the road.

In the past three years, major landslides and caving in of roads occurred at Satijhora, Berrick, 29th Mile, Lukhbir, Andherikhola, Panchfalay, Vaichalay and Gailkhola.

Explaining the reason behind the same, a senior official of the state PWD's NH wing said: "The drawdown effect of the backwater of two dams and also the discharge of water from it leaves an adverse impact on the constructions, including the embankments that protect the road. There were cases when the water level even goes up to the road. We have written to the NHPC authorities several times. There were meetings even but no positive step has been taken yet in this connection."

Sources said the PWD officials have requested the NHPC authorities to take up the proper protection work by constructing embankment-like structures along the Teesta in this stretch. It has also been stated that the tentative cost of such "protection work" is around Rs 187 crore.

Binod Kumar Chaudhary, Senior Manager (Civil) of Teesta Low Dam III, has brushed aside all allegations saying that they have given a reply to the letter received in this connection and also cleared their views in a recently held meeting.

"The full capacity of reserving water is up to the level of 208 metre and we always reserve at least 0.5 metre less than the full capacity. It is the poor drainage system along the road that is causing the problem," Chaudhury said.

The state PWD's NH wing, however, prepared a detailed project report to ensure a permanent solution to the menace as the total connectivity with Sikkim gets completely cut off if the road gets shut and one also needs to take a long route to reach Kalimpong. The issue has also been taken up with the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.

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