Highways await repair, face landslide risk

- POST REPORT, Pokhara
Highways await repair, face landslide risk

Jun 20, 2015-

With the start of monsoon and lack of road repairs, risk of landslides and accidents has threatened transportation along various highways in the western region.

A woman was killed as landslides at Mauribhir along the Pokhara-Baglung Highway hit a jeep on Thursday. The 72 kilometre highway has also been hit by similar landslips at various other locations while its blacktopping has been badly damaged at Lumle, Nayapul, Dhawa and some sections in Parbat.

Road technicians said the damage was caused due to the recurring earthquakes and the resulting landslips. Problems could compound with the rains as underground cracks have been feared to have developed in several places, they said.

Drivers complained that the road is narrow on one side and damaged on the other. Long-time driver Chiranjivi Rimal said it is difficult to overtake or to let a vehicle pass. “There is not enough space even to let a motorbike pass through,” he said. On average, more than 1,300 vehicles ply the Pokhara-Baglung highway daily.

Division Road Office (DRO) has argued lack of budget for failure to maintain the road. “Repairs are impossible without a budget of Rs 100 million to Rs 150 million,” Pokhara DRO chief Narendra Subedi said. “Regular budget is only enough to keep the road open.”

As the highway is built on weak and unstable surface at several places, potholes are imminent in sections which witness heavy rainfall and busy traffic, he added.

Likewise, Siddhartha Highway suffers from the same fate. The Bhalupahad section along the highway in Syangja is at high risk of landslides, the DRO has warned, stating that the risk has increased following the earthquakes. On the other hand, unauthorised rural roads have added to the damage. “The rural roads have become a headache,” Subedi said. “Mud flowing along the highway blocks drainage and water flows on the road.”

The Beni-Jomsom road along the bank of the Kaligandaki river is also at high risk. Technicians said the road was designed without studying possible geological risks and damaged places have not been repaired. “There is a high risk of landslides as the road was built using dozers and explosives without a geological study and technical design and the extracted soil has not been managed,” Geo-conservation Officer Diwakar Poudel said. “Our roads are built generally by cut-and-fill technique. Landslides occur due to heavy loads because of excessive dumping of the resulting extraction.”

Lack of alternate routes

Road officials said an alternate route is necessary for the Chidiyakhola-Jhumsa section of the Siddhartha Highway as the area is always prone to landslips during monsoon.

The DRO has proposed Khaireni-Gothadi-Banstari road of Rupandehi district as an alternative route. Likewise, there is another proposal to construct a route from Tamnagar to Jhumsa passing through Dobhan at Nuwakot. DRO engineer Chhavi Poudel said an alternative route was sought due to problems in repairing. “Millions of rupees is spent on repairs each year,” he said.

Shortage of workers

The ongoing work to construct the Baglung section of the Mid-Hill Highway has been affected due to the lack of labourers and technicians. With this, plans to blacktop a 20 kilometre section, gravel another 45 kilometre section and make the Burtibang-headquarters section operational during the monsoon within this fiscal year have been stuck in limbo.

“We had planned to blacktop the Ghodabandhe-Hatiya section and gravel the Baglung-Bihu section,” said project Balram Mishra. “As most of the labourers went home after the earthquake, we could not finish the work in time.” Around 142 kilometre section of the highway falls in the district.

Mishra said the highway construction work was hampered as the government deployed engineers and sub-engineers in quake-affected areas. He also informed that works such as constructing a concrete bridge over the Bhimgothe river is under way but work to build a similar bridge over the Narethati river has stalled for the past four years. The government had allocated Rs 650 million for the road works for this fiscal year.

Equipment on standby

Officials at the Tanahun DRO said they have kept equipment on full alert at risk-prone areas of the Prithvi Highway. Division chief Bel Bahadur Bhujel said loader vehicles are kept on alert round the clock as several sections have sustained cracks due to the earthquake and the risk of landslides is high during rains. According to Bhujel, 21 kilometres of the 72 kilometre section of the highway in the district is at high risk of landslides. He said they plan to remove debris from the road within half an hour in case of a landslide in the area.

According to traffic police, around 3000 vehicles ply the highway every day.

(With inputs from Lal Prasad Sharma in Pokhara, Ghanashyam Khadka in Myagdi, Madhav Aryal in Palpa, Prakash Baral in Baglung and Purna BK in Tanahun)

Published: 21-06-2015 08:13

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