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Construction firms face flak on floods

Guwahati, June 23: Two firms engaged by the National Highways Authority of India for highway expansion work today faced public fury after flash floods caused by heavy rains in the last 48 hours halted traffic at Jorabat junction.

Local residents locked up the Jorabat office of MBL Infrastructure Limited and RITES (a government consultancy agency) around 10am and alleged that haphazard construction by the two firms has increased the problem of flash floods in the junction.

The Jorabat Navajiban Sangha, traders and students led the protest. The protesters also seized some machinery used in the ongoing construction.

The Telegraph had on June 9 had highlighted how cutting of hills on both Assam and Meghalaya side, filling up of wetlands and highway expansion work was worsening the flash flood problem at the important Jorabat junction on the outskirts of Guwahati.

It connects the city to Meghalaya, Barak Valley, Mizoram and Tripura through NH40 on one side and large parts of Upper and lower Assam through NH37 on the other.

Flash floods, which have become quite common over the past few years, yesterday blocked traffic on both sides of the highway from 2pm to 8pm while many trucks, buses and other vehicles were stranded on Saturday morning too, following last night’s heavy rains.

“We had no other option but to lock up the offices of the two organisations as we have seen that slow and haphazard work by them has increased the flash flood problem here. The highway expansion on the stretch from Khanapara to Digaru (NH37) started in 2006 but there has not been much progress in the last six years. The construction workers have blocked drains and those being newly constructed ones cannot drain out rainwater properly,” Dibyajyoti Medhi, president of the Dimoria block unit of All Assam Students’ Union, said.

“We have repeatedly raised the issue with the NHAI officials and the district administration to ask the two firms to speed up the construction work but have seen no steps from any side,” Medhi said.

Both Assam and Meghalaya governments attributed the problem to the highway construction work and expressed concern as commuters taking the route were facing much inconvenience.