The central government has decided to revamp NH10, the principal highway that connects Sikkim with the rest of India, with slope restoration and landslide mitigation under the National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP).
The highway connects Sevoke — around 20km from Siliguri — in Bengal with Sikkim capital Gangtok via Rangpo, the town on the border of the two states. The road also connects Kalimpong with Siliguri.
In a letter sent to Darjeeling BJP MP Raju Bista, Union minister of road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari said the Bengal public works department had been assigned the task of preparing a detailed project report for refurbishing the highway that is also strategically important for India as it leads to the China border in Sikkim.
“One DPR for major slope restoration and landslide mitigation measures at about 20 vulnerable locations in Sevoke-Rongpo section (around 55 kilometres) of NH 10 is under preparation with the State PWD of West Bengal. The work has been proposed under National Infrastructure Pipeline (NIP) and we have planned to award the work in FY 2021-22 (within the current fiscal year),” Gadkari said in the letter dated June 7.
The NIP, which was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2019, is a government exercise planned to improve infrastructure across the country. A task force headed by the secretary of the department of economic affairs that functions under the finance ministry was formed to draw up projects.
NH10 is a precarious hilly road, particularly between Sevoke and Teesta Bazaar (a stretch of 32km). The highway has a number of landslide-prone zones and often gets blocked as debris come down the hillside during the monsoon.
The road witnesses several accidents every year and in many cases, vehicles go off and plunge into the Teesta which flows parallel to the highway.
“There had been recurring accidents and landslides which have led to loss of lives along the road. For years, there hasn’t been any major expansion of the highway which leads to such mishaps. That is why I had written to the Union minister. I thank him for responding to my letter and including the project in the NIP,” said the Darjeeling MP.
Gadkari said in the letter that crash barriers would be installed along the route to curb accidents, particularly falling of vehicles into the Teesta. “There will be other provisions like rescue ambulances, patrol vehicles and tow-away cranes. This is according to the new policy of incident management services formulated by the ministry under which all new NH projects would be included,” said a source.
The MP said the state PWD should speed up the DPR preparation.
“A refurbished NH10 will enhance travel safety of lakhs of residents of Sikkim and Kalimpong and thousands of tourists,” he said.