In Uttarakhand, there are more to road blocks than heavy rains सही तकनीक से सड़कें बना कर उत्तराखंड बदल सकता है प्रगति की दिशा

In Uttarakhand, there are more to road blocks than heavy rains सही तकनीक से सड़कें बना कर उत्तराखंड बदल सकता है प्रगति की दिशा

A proper scientific approach towards road construction, drainage and vegetation can go a long way in solving the menace of road blocks in Uttarakhand, writes Mukesh Rawat


ourism is supposedly the lifeline to Uttarakhand’s economy. Almost 90% of tourism in the state is dependent on roads. Yet every year during monsoon all the major routes are either washed away, badly damaged due to surface runoff or remain blocked for days. The plight of the district roads and other local roads is no different. This is not a phenomenon limited to the higher altitudes of Garhwal where big landslides are common, but the same is witnessed in districts like Almora, Nainital, Bageshwar and others too.

Of course it is true that man often has little say when matched against nature’s fury. True that in some cases, say a major landslide, despite all precautionary measures not much can be done to avoid a road block. However, if observed carefully, one can easily find that most of the damage occurs not because of a catastrophe but due to our lackadaisical attitude — right from conducting survey for a new road to its maintenance once constructed.

The yearly loss in terms of property can be ascertained from the government’s own admission that about 14,000 kms of motor roads and 1,000 kms of bridle path were damaged during the monsoon of 2010, 2011 and 2012 in Uttarakhand. To get this repaired the Uttarakhand Annual Plan 2013-14 urged the Planning Commission to grant a ‘Comprehensive Road Replacement Package’ amounting to Rs.800 crores per annum.

Why is it that the same problem gets repeated year after year in the same fashion?

First, right from the time when Uttarakhand emerged as a new state the network of roads has increased manifolds. Apart from the Central and state government schemes a lot many local connecting roads have been constructed using the funds available to the MPs and MLAs for their constituencies. The tragedy with roads in Uttarakhand is that hardly any scientific study of the terrain is conducted while commissioning a road to see if the proposed area is suitable for road construction or not. Little attention is paid to factors like load bearing capacity of the soil, slope, composition of the hill, water holding capacity, vegetation, porosity etc. All these are important factors that ultimately decide the fate of the bare mountains once a road is dug in.

Second, in the construction of most of the local roads the engineer hardly registers his/her physical presence on ground. As a result the diktats of the contractors come into play. To save time and money the road is often dug in a manner which joins the two end points in the shortest possible way often with complete disregard to the geographical factors mentioned above.

Third, it has become a common sight in the hills that wherever a new road is being dug out, the debris is dumped along the hillside. This results in blocking the natural drainage of the hill. During heavy rains the water thus seeps in the barren hill to an extent that it often results in landslides.

naintial landslides

Nainital landslides 1880 (Photo courtesy British Library)

The massive landslide in Nainital in 1880 which left 151 people dead and missing is a classic example of this. Narrating the events of the catastrophe, the historian C. T. Atkinson writes in the “Kumaon Gazetteer” — “…the roads were injured, the water-courses chocked, and there was a general saturation of the soil in all places where the loose debris of rotten shale allowed the water to penetrate. There was much clearing of new sites during previous year, and the builders did not always provide for the derangement of natural drainage channels. In many places the water was allowed to sink into crevices in the hill and find new outlets for itself, and this it did with a vengeance.”

Natural drainage was important then and perhaps is far more important today.

Fourth, the last injury to the hills is caused in the form of absence of drainage along the road after it is fully constructed. Travel to any quarters of Uttarakhand, the one common architectural blunder that we come across is that even all weather roads scarcely have a drain running parallel to the road to carry the excess water along with it. Where the drains are present they are usually found in a condition which speaks volumes of their poor maintenance. Clogged with weeds and garbage of all variety these cosmetic drains end up aggravating the damage instead of preventing it. A parallel drain is important because it helps to keep the road dry as most of the excess water flows through the drains (if properly maintained) and surface runoff on the roads can be minimised.

It is clear from the above factors that if worked upon properly crores of rupees that are spent on replacement and reconstruction of damaged roads can be used for other developmental projects. A proper scientific approach towards road construction, drainage and vegetation can go a long way in solving the menace of road blocks in Uttarakhand.

mukesh rawat

Mukesh Rawat is a freelance journalist.

Twitter: @mukeshrawat705 


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