Three years of efforts of four-laning in the first phase of the national highway in Himachal Pradesh between Parwanoo to Solan towns have again virtually been washed away this monsoon — with less than 10 per cent of the 39-km long, newly-laid road motorable in one stretch.
Motorists say the maximum damage to the road is on a 30-km stretch between Parwanoo and Kumarhatti, where over 20 km is either badly damaged or piled with boulders and muck due to frequent landslides.
They fear a threat to life from the falling debris while travelling through the hills that have been excavated for highway widening.
Even the executing agency, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), for the project — which aims to cut travel time between Chandigarh and the Himachal capital Shimla by shortening the distance by 17 km — does not know what to do with the falling boulders and muck.
It is simply putting the blame on heavy rains that are triggering landslides, damaging the road network time and again. Last year, too, this stretch was damaged by landslips during the monsoon and had to be rebuilt.
“We can’t do much as the loose hill strata could hardly withstand the rains,” NHAI Regional Officer in Shimla, Gursewak Singh Sangha, told IANS.
He said that, in some stretches, NHAI had constructed retaining structures like breast walls up to the height of 12 metres but sliding rocks and boulders damaging them badly — as well as the highway.
“For the past two months we have not made much progress in the construction of the stretch between Parwanoo and Solan owing to rains,” he added.
The Rs 748 crore outlay for four-laning the Parwanoo-Solan highway lapsed in March. A total of 23,785 trees faced the axe for its widening.
Geologists blame unscientific cutting of precipitous hills, largely of shell, sandstone and clay, for the frequent landslips.