Bad road blow to tourism

http://www.telegraphindia.com
RAJEEV RAVIDAS

Kalimpong, Oct. 18: The monsoon has reduced large stretches of NH31A to treacherous dirt tracks and contributed to reducing the number of tourists coming to Kalimpong and Sikkim during the Puja holidays.

This hill town, for example, has seen a fall of about 30 per cent in tourist arrival this season compared to last year.

“The bad road condition and the fear of political turmoil in the hills are probably the reasons for the dip in tourist arrival,” said Sanjogita Subba, the president of the Kalimpong Hotel and Restaurant Owners’ Association.

However, things could have been much worse if the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), which maintains the highway that connects Kalimpong and Sikkim to Siliguri, had not worked overtime over the past few weeks.

The Telegraph today inspected the badly affected stretches of the road to get a clearer picture of the effort put in by the BRO in restoring the connectivity so promptly. After all, no less than 60 landslides, most of them triggered by rain, had occurred between Sevoke and Rangpo, a distance of 52km, in early September.

On top of that, the BRO has been hamstrung by the lack of labour force and non-availability of stone quarry.

“The NHPC hydel projects on the Teesta have attracted a major portion of the local labour force. We have taken up the matter with the Kalimpong subdivisional officer (P. T. Sherpa) who has promised to help,” said a BRO official.

Despite such constraints, the BRO has managed to repair breaches all along the highway right up to Gangtok, though at some places the road is yet to be opened to two-way traffic.

“We must first carry out sufficient repairs to allow two-way traffic along the entire highway. After that we will completely resurface a 14km stretch of the road from Sevoke railway crossing to Lohapool and repair other damaged portions,” said the BRO official.

With all work expected to be completed by March-end, the next spring should see an increase in the number of tourists to the region.

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