Hindustan-Tibet NH disrupted by landslide, poses daunting task for admin ahead of apple season
Shimla, June 20
The Shimla district administration is facing a daunting task as it attempts to open the road before the apple season begins. The Hindustan Tibet National Highway has been disrupted by a massive landslide near Theog in Shimla district since June 18, causing vehicular traffic to come to a halt.
Restoration work on the road has commenced, but Upper Shimla remains completely cut off for the past three days. As a result, the administration has redirected vehicular traffic via the Mashobra to Sainj route towards Rampur and Kinnaur district. Traffic to Rohru, Chopal, and Kotkhai has been diverted via the Fagu-Dhamandari route, and traffic to Narkanda and Matyana has been rerouted through Narail-Kyartu-Thela-Baldeyan-Mashobra-Dhali.
A notification issued by the district administration on June 18 stated that National Highway-05 has been blocked due to a landslide near Theog, severing connectivity to Upper Shimla.
Public Works, Youth Services, and Sports Minister Vikramaditya Singh inspected the obstructed National Highway-05 due to the landslide in Theog on the spot on Monday. Former CPM MLA Rakesh Singha and party activists protested the negligence of the Himachal Pradesh Public Works Department Executive Engineer and National Highway Authority in constructing retaining walls without culverts on the highway, which led to the landslide.
Local youths belonging to CPI(M) expressed strong resentment over the negligence of the department and administration, as the apple transport lines in the Shimla district were disrupted. The road is crucial for transporting apple crops from Kinnaur and Shimla district to markets across the country, and the alternate routes may not be economically viable for farmers and traders. The proposed construction of a valley bridge may also prove futile.
Following his visit, the Minister informed the media that the Public Works Department (PWD) would build an optional 100-meter-long Valley Bridge to enable one-way traffic on the road. The construction work of the Valley Bridge has been ordered to commence immediately and be completed within a week. The Minister also instructed the SDM and DSP of Theog to coordinate with the department and identify alternative routes for temporary use until the Valley Bridge construction is completed. The department will also work to fill the void or ditch created by the landslide on NH-5.
The closure of the main apple roads poses a challenge for farmers, the administration, and the government in facilitating the transportation of heavy-loaded apple trucks on the disrupted road and dealing with the poor condition of the highway. It is worth mentioning that NHAI is currently busy widening NH03 and NH-5. However, the construction quality and mining towards the hillside are causing numerous cave-ins along the roads, and the inadequate drainage and water culverts are exacerbating the situation. The under-construction Ambala-Shimla NH-5 junction also collapsed near the Solan-Kumarhatti tunnel last year, disrupting vehicular traffic. Both four-lane highways are crucial for transporting thousands of tourists and commuters, and their disruption will have an impact. Shimla-Kufri-Theog and Narkanda are the main hotspots for tourists seeking respite from the sweltering heatwave.
It is unlikely that the construction of the Theog bypass road will be completed before the apple season. However, the Minister has assured farmers and CPI(M) leaders that the road will be commissioned as soon as possible to be used during the apple season. The state is expected to receive Rs 8 crore from the Center for the Theog bypass road, but the department must expedite the work after receiving the funds.
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