Monday, July 04, 2011

Anxiety Rises Among Gangtok Residents Due To Landslips

Crack in Support Wall
A linesman undertakes the challenging task of shifting an electricity post to a safer location and resuming power supply to the affected area above the Government College campus in Gangtok.
Houses Bandaided with Plastics

GANGTOK, 04 July: Although restoration works have begun on the failed slope in the college campus here, residents of the houses above remain an anxious lot, unsure that these measures so late in the day will keep their buildings safe. The clutch of around 150 houses in the area have been trying to convince authorities that the two massive hostels being constructed at the toe of the slope were unwise undertakings in the absence of adequate protective measures. The Department however began the construction work without constructing a retaining wall to secure the slope above and the college slammed a boundary wall above, which the residents contend, disrupted the drainage. Now, the slope has slid away, the wall has collapsed and the houses above imperiled.

The slip happened on the intervening night of 29 and 30 June and has been in accelerated collapse since then. Restoration works on the damaged stretch have however begun in earnest now, but their efficacy is yet to be proven and will be tested when the rains come down with some intensity next.
As for the mitigation efforts afoot, the electricity post which had tilted when the boundary wall collapsed last night, has been shifted further down to a safer spot and power supply restored to the area.
Sandbag-benching along the failed slope, from the hostel construction site to the houses above has also begun. Meanwhile, the PHE Department has started diverting the sewage lines away from the slope which is now in slide.
The department has channeled two new lines [temporary] to carry away the sewage from this area.
The already dislodged water supply lines to the Central Referral Hospital which was laid across what is now the slide zone has also been dismantled and an alternate route is being laid.
The situation for the buildings above the slide continues to throw up new challenges every day. A retaining wall along the foundation of one such building sported a vertical crack straight down the middle this morning, creating more worries about the stability of the houses here.
Although fresh plaster and plastic sheets are being lavishly spread out, these are obviously band-aid remedies for the fracture that the alignment has become.
Faced with the situation they find themselves in now, the 150 households in the area are now complaining of stubborn official dismissal of their complaints raised in the past. They highlight that when the boundary wall was constructed, they had complained of it blocking drainage in the area and peep-holes were included in the wall for surface run-off. These were however more than 5 inches above the ground level and would have carried away surface run off only when the area flooded.
More worrisome is their official protest against the hostel construction work starting without the slope being fortified. They had done this before construction began and had even met the district authorities formally with the complaint only to be ignored. Now, their fears have come true.
The residents, it is informed, had even lodged an FIR recording the danger posed by the construction below. Nothing came of it either.
It is informed that the slide zone was visited by the HRD Minister, NK Pradhan, UD&HD Minister, DB Thapa, who also happens to be the area MLA, Gangtok Mayor, KN Topgay, DC, D Anandan, SDM, Dr. AB Karki and Chief Engineer, HRDD, MB Gurung this morning. The residents pointed out that the Ministers inspected the slide from the college area and did not visit the affected people above. The district and departmental officials have, however, been visiting the spot since yesterday itself and reassuring the residents of adequate safety measures being taken.

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