Haflong (Assam): Landslides and flood have left a trail of destruction in Dima Hasao, a picturesque tourist hotspot in Assam, prompting a multi-agency effort to salvage the state’s only hill station Haflong and its surrounding townships in the district, officials said.
Officials, however, are uncertain when Dima Hasao will regain its lost sheen, considering the enormity of the devastation.
While snapped road links are likely to be restored within the next few weeks, train movement connecting Dima Hasao, Barak Valley, Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur with the rest of the country is expected to resume from July, they said.
“The restoration work is underway in full swing. We have set a target to complete the task by June 30 and plan to restart train services from July 1,” Northeast Frontier Railway Chief Public Relations Officer Sabyasachi De told PTI.
An official release issued by the NF Railway on Saturday said several trains have been cancelled till the first week of July, due to water-logging and landslides at numerous places.
While landslides were reported at 58 locations along the railway alignment, the two places of devastation that grabbed headlines were the mud-filled New Haflong railway station, where trains were derailed and submerged, and a portion of track suspended in the air with earth beneath washed away.
The road network to Dima Hasao was also cut off, as streets filled with mud, stones and slash became a common sight. Though some stretches have been partially reopened and tunnels cleaned up, a senior official of the Assam State Disaster Management Authority (ASDMA) said complete restoration will take more than a week.
Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had on Sunday met NHAI Chairperson Alka Upadhyaya and discussed the road condition in Dima Hasao.
Another big challenge is to reinstate mobile services in the affected areas, the restoration work of which is also underway, the officials said.
Dering Thaosen, advisor of Blue Hills Society, a local NGO, said that Dima Hasao, once infamous for dreaded insurgency, had just begun its journey of development, but the natural disaster has now pushed the district 50 years back.
“The new broad gauge connectivity and the highways, popularly called ‘Mahasarak’, had brought some hope for Dima Hasao in terms of tourism and revenue. Businesses had just started to gain momentum and many outsiders were interested to invest.”
“But, the heavy rain and landslides have again brought dark days for us and now the district has been pushed back 50 years,” he said.
Asked about the possible causes of the ravages due to landslides, which is not new to Dima Hasao, Thaosen said: “One of the biggest reasons for this scale of destruction was haphazard construction work for the broad gauge and highways, which resulted in damage to the environment.”
“The economy of the district collapsed due to the shutdown of road and rail communication. It has vast opportunities in the tourism sector and the government should give emphasis on proper drainage systems, as most of the landslides happened due to improper drainage,” said Samal Nandi, a Haflong-based businessman.
Aslam Khan, a retired Inspector of Schools, whose grandfather was a contractor in the construction of metre gauge railway in Dima Hasao, said all construction work should be done as per scientific norms to withstand the onslaught of heavy rain in the hill district.
“I am in favour of resumption of the metre gauge, as heritage railway is much to the delight of tourists,” Khan said.
Until October 2014, tourists largely preferred the journey of the century-old metre gauge rail, which crisscrossed Dima Hasao in a zig-zag track through numerous tunnels and vintage bridges.
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