Gangtok: The alternative highway stretching from Adampool to Reshithang that was aimed at easing Gangtok’s heavy traffic has been cut off by multiple landslides and cave-ins due to incessant rain on Wednesday evening.

The alternative highway stretching for 6.2 kilometres from Adampool to Reshithang was awaiting inauguration.

Local residents have also blamed the Rani River, which flows adjacent to the highway, for much of the damages. They said the river was flowing aground on Wednesday evening during the 3-hour long rainfall and thunderstorm.

The highway had been constructed to counter the rising traffic concern on the current highway stretching from Ranipool to Bojhoghari, which gets clogged by vehicles any time of the day. The new highway was constructed for an easier commute to STNM Hospital at Sokeythang for emergencies and smooth travel of ambulances and avoid the traffic on the current highway.

Eyewitnesses said the ferocity of the rainfall was so much that the Rani River was flowing aground on the highway due to many blockages. The blockages were also noticed on the multiple streams that cut through the highway to reach the river. These streams tend to get clogged due to rampant dumping of waste from across the state capital which ultimately reaches the river.

Many under-construction housing and commercial sites have also contributed to the clogging on the highway.

Elsewhere, an eight ton truck parked on the roadside fell into the river when the road caved in. The truck was swept by the river almost 500 metres from where it was parked. Efforts were on the whole day to recover the damaged truck out of the water.

The truck owner-cum-driver said, “My truck was parked on the side of the road. It appears that the river had swollen up and was hitting the wall supporting the road until it finally collapsed, taking the truck with it. All the necessary documents were inside the truck and it may have been swept away by now. I had bought the truck some 3 years ago. If I have to put in numbers, it’s a loss of almost Rs 12 Lakh.”

Around afternoon, Roads and Bridges Minister Samdup Lepcha along with Tadong constituency MLA GT Dhungel visited the site to asses the damages.

Minister Samdup Lepcha, while speaking to the media, said, “In our early estimation, the damage caused to the highway could be well over Rs 50-60 crore. There is a depth of almost 8 metres from the road to the river. Despite that, the river appears to have run aground. It’s a natural disaster, so from the government’s side we will do what is necessary to restore the highway as soon as possible.”

“However, we do not intend on rushing with the work to make a weak structure. We will take time with our estimation, take it up with the central government, bring it to the notice of the Chief Minister. There is no one to blame here, neither the engineer nor the contractor; it’s a natural calamity,” the minister added.

Local legislator GT Dhungel said, “It was an abnormal rainfall yesterday. Naturally places near the river tend to get most damaged. There is massive urbanization happening in Gangtok, high up in the hills, but the runoff of rainfall is being curtailed, it naturally comes down to the river.”

“From rain to sewerage water, everything comes downhill to the river. The restoration will not be only here on the highway or the river belt, but in a step by step manner, correction beginning from river training, followed by restoration of the road, all drainage related works from steam training or other allied works needed,” Dhungel added.

“We will have to correct not just the water flowing downhill but correct it from the river basin to high up in the hills. We will have to strengthen the river basin first and then go uphill. But we will have to wait until the dry season, as any restoration work will once again be disrupted by the upcoming Monsoonal rains. Once Monsoon recedes around October, only then can the work be carried out. We will have to rectify the damages,” he said.

Local residents also alleged how with the expansion of the road and supporting walls, had resulted in the river becoming narrower now than in the past, affecting its natural flow. Meanwhile, the road has been closed for vehicles until the restoration is completed.

Also read: Sikkim bans excavation for construction in monsoon

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