Thursday, July 05, 2007

Geological Study of Landslides On NH31A.

photo: KaliJhora Before NEPC Project
Gangtok: The Union surface transport ministry has asked the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) to get the Geological Survey of India (GSI) to study all landslides on NH31A.
Confirming this, BRO sources said they have already approached the GSI authorities in Gangtok, who, however, have set certain preconditions.
“They are saying that they will take up one landslide every year for study. They are also quoting a very high price for the job,” the sources added.
The central directive has come after a sustained campaign by a Kalimpong-based pressure group, NH31A Bachao Committee, which was formed last year following a landslide at 27th Mile on the highway.
The landslide was allegedly triggered by the construction of a dam on the Teesta river by the National Hydroelectric Power Corporation Ltd (NHPC) as part of its Teesta low dam project. But, the NHPC attributed the calamity to incessant rainfall.
Environmentalists are, however, unanimous that the slide, which disrupted the traffic on NH31A for weeks together, posed a huge problem for the seven-lakh people of Himalayan state and Kalimpong subdivision. The national highway is the link between Sikkim and the rest of the country.
The issue was also raised by Darjeeling MP Dawa Narbula in Parliament last year.
In a statement at the House, Narbula had expressed apprehensions about the adverse impact of the dam construction and had demanded an “immediate investigation into the two NHPC projects (Reang and Kalijhora) and their impact on the environment”. The MP had also called for a “transparent” review of the projects.
Welcoming the central directive on the GSI study, the committee hopes that the recommendations would be given due importance in preparing the environment impact assessment report and environment monitoring programmes that were conducted for the Reang and Kalijhora projects.
“In the case of the Kalijhora project, we have brought to the notice of the NHPC authorities in Delhi the violation of various forest laws since the Kali river forms the boundary of the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary,” said P. T. Bhutia, the convener of the committee.
Among the six hydel projects NHPC is currently implementing, four are in Sikkim along the Teesta basin.
Some of these projects have drawn flak from environmentalists in that state. The indigenous Lepcha community of Sikkim and Kalimpong also express strong protests over the projects as they fear implementing one of the hydel plants will lead to the loss of their reserved area Dzongu in North Sikkim.