Work in progress to divert toy train tracks that run parallel to NH55 from the slide-hit stretch at Tindharia. File picture
Siliguri, Oct. 6: The Calcutta-based firm responsible for restoring the landslide-affected zone at Tindharia on NH55 has sought guidance from an Italian company so that the stretch is rebuilt in a manner that can withstand natural calamities like landslides and earthquakes.
PWD officials said Bharat Banijya Eastern Private Limited, which got the contract for restoring the damaged portion at Tindharia, 35km from here, in July, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Maccaferri Environmental Solutions Private Limited.
“The Calcutta-based construction firm has signed a memorandum of understanding with an Italian firm to guide them in rebuilding the damaged portion of the highway at Tindharia. They have sought assistance of the Italian firm because it has experience in working on similar projects,” said Nirmal Mondal, the executive engineer of the state PWD (NH-IX division).
“They will provide environmental engineering and technical expertise for building strong and resilient infrastructure. The main aim of the collaboration is to rebuild the damaged portion in such a manner that it will be resistant to damage from landslides and earthquakes that the area is prone to,” he added.
“The Italian firm had also provided its expertise in building the airport at Pakyong in Sikkim. The airport (which is under construction) did not suffer any damage in the major earthquake of September 2011,” said the official.
On September 28, 2011, a landslide damaged a 200m-stretch on NH55 at Tindharia, 10 days after an earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale rocked Sikkim.
The highway has remained closed since then.
Rainfall in the subsequent years caused further damage to the stretch, 20km from Kurseong, that resembles a gorge now.
NH55 connects Siliguri to Darjeeling via Kurseong.
With the highway shut, travellers take Rohini Road and roads from Mungpoo and Mirik to reach the hill town.
The Union ministry of road transport and highways had sanctioned Rs 83 crore in March for repairing the NH55 stretch at Tindharia.
Last week, two representatives from the Italian firm visited Tindharia for a survey of the spot. Soil from the area is being collected for tests in a Pune laboratory.
“A two-member team of an expert from the firm in Italy and their Indian counterpart visited the Tindharia landslide zone last Sunday. They surveyed the entire area and took stock of the damage. The process of soil collection and testing is being carried out from different parts of Tindharia. The process of preparing an elaborate design for repair of the highway will start after the soil is studied. Thereafter, the restoration will begin,” the PWD executive engineer said.
Mondal added that last month the Union ministry sanctioned Rs 89 crore for restoration of NH31D that connects Siliguri to Cooch Behar via Jalpaiguri.
“Tenders have been floated through the website of the Union ministry,” Mondal said.
With no repair for the past two years, NH31D is dotted with craters.