Owing to frequent and prolonged disruptions during monsoon, the 150-km Tanakpur-Pithoragarh stretch of the all-weather road’ project has not been able to achieve its basic objective of providing uninterrupted connectivity to the India-China borders and smooth transportation of defense supplies .
The stretch which is part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious all-weather road project for Uttarakhand was closed more than 300 times due to landslides during monsoon over the past two years, officials said.
“The stretch along NH-9 remained closed for 350 hours in 55 days in 2022 and 545 hours in 110 days in 2021,” Champawat’s District Disaster Management Officer (DDMO) Manoj Pandey said.
The Pithoragarh portion of the road has been blocked since Tuesday, Pithoragarh DDMO BS Mahar said. The stretch has been blocked many times this monsoon, he added.
“The road could be of an all-weather nature only after the landslide sensitive points are treated and a 167-metre-long bridge at Chalthi gets completed,” Executive Engineer Sunil Kumar, in-charge of this part of the project, said.
The all-weather road project was inaugurated by Modi in 2016 to improve the condition of road infrastructure in border areas, provide Char Dham pilgrims a round-the-year access to the four Himalayan temples, and boost tourism activities in the hill state.
Three portions of the Tanakpur-Pithoragarh stretch of the ambitious project road that have witnessed landslides have already been inaugurated online by the prime minister.
Only the fourth portion of the road, from Banlekh to Tanakpur, is yet to be inaugurated due to the under-construction bridge at Chalthi, Kumar said.
There are 51 slide-sensitive points on the road which need to be treated to stabilize the road, he said.
According to national highway officers, it takes newly constructed roads amid slide zones at least three years to stabilize.
All sensitive points from the point of view of landslides were identified recently by a team of experts from THDC which is supposed to treat them under an arrangement with the Ministry of Road Transport, they said.
An estimate of over Rs 192 crore for the treatment of 28 landslide vulnerable points from Tanakpur to Bhartoli is in the final stage of approval by the ministry, the executive engineer said.
An estimate for the treatment of 23 more landslide-prone points is under preparation, he said.
Considered the lifeline of Pithoragarh, and the main link road for the security posts at India-China and India-Nepal borders, the stretch has got blocked 25 times this monsoon.
Closure of the route for even two days leads to a shortage of essential commodities, President of Pithoragarh district traders union Pawan Joshi said.
The Tanakpur-Pithoragarh stretch is the only part of an all-weather road project passing through the Kumaon region.
The work on the Rs 12,000 crore all-weather road project had begun in 2017.
It was originally scheduled to be completed by 2019 but due to unexpected rock behavior and non-availability of laborers due to the Covid pandemic for two years, the completion of the road has been constantly delayed, the official said.
Another reason for the delay is the under-construction bridge at Chalthi, which is likely to be completed by March next year, he said.
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