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Dhanbad helps connect Mizoram
- State technology for road project in the hilly terrain of Lunglei

Dhanbad, Jan. 4: If residents of Lunglei in Mizoram can hope to reach their state capital quicker, they should thank Jharkhand. For, it was technology provided by the Dhanbad lab of the Central Institute for Mining and Fuel Research (CIMFR) that has helped start work on a crucial road — shorter and better— through the hilly terrain.

The institute, a constituent laboratory of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), had sent its scientists equipped with knowhow and material to provide “control blasting” technology for constructing a 160 km road expected to cut travel time between Aizawl and Lunglei — the second-largest town of the state — by at least four hours.

Over the last month or so, the technology has been used to build a 1.5 km stretch through the hilly and treacherous terrain of Midumkham. “A special technique with bamboo spacers was used for the first time during controlled blasting. Bamboo, which is easily available in Mizoram, was excellent material for blasting rocks without damaging high-tension cables and residential structures,” said P. Pal Roy, team leader of the project.

The project, which also reduces travel distance by about 40 km, is now progressing well with the lab scientists having returned to Dhanbad. But the technology is still being used for further blasting of the hills. In 2006, the Mizoram government requested CIMFR to help with the Aizawl-Thenzawl-Lunglei World Bank-funded project. Pegged at Rs 108 cr, it envisaged constructing a state highway linking the capital and Lunglei via Thenzawl — a census town in Serchhip district.

The road passes through a treacherous hilly terrain that has claimed several lives during earlier attempts. “The 160 km road passes through some extremely difficult terrain in Midumkham,” said C. Sawmliana, a CIMFR scientist and resident of Mizoram.

“Located along the eastern limb of the Hmuifang hill ranges, between Thiak and Sumsuih villages, Midumkham is marked by steep slopes and fragile hilly areas. It is 45 km from Aizwal and located at an altitude of above 1,500 m from sea level,” added the scientist.

Amid continuous risks of rockslides and downpours, Sawmliana and scientists R.K. Singh and Rahul Yadav started work in December 2006. “It was the scariest experience of our lives,” said Singh. “The terrain is extremely risky. Loose rocks used to fall and sometimes there were landslides. We used to run for our lives then. By the next year (2007), things got tougher as the ground became slippery as the state recorded the heaviest rainfall in 25 years.”

Often, all three had to go hungry as food would not arrive on time. The road passes through terrain in Midukham that has claimed several lives during an earlier attempt. Legendary for the unique challenges it continues to pose, the British attempted to construct a 3m-wide road through it in 1880 and workers were brought in from Dumka. But many are said to have died.

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