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Reckless excavation threat to Kalka-Shimla rail track

The Tribune 2019-01-10 06:57:00
Parwanoo-Solan 4-laning work weakens foundation
Sandbags placed to buttress a section of the Kalka-Shimla rail track near Koti following soil erosion due to excavation. Photo: Ambika Sharma

Ambika Sharma
Tribune News Service
Solan, January 9

Unscientific and unplanned excavation along the Parwanoo-Solan highway for its four-laning has posed a danger to the UNESCO world heritage Kalka-Shimla railway track that runs parallel to the road at several points. 

At least eight locations have been identified on the Kumarhatti-Dharampur-Sanwara stretch where the track’s foundation has been weakened due to landslides caused by heavy digging on the hillside. 

The private company undertaking the four-laning work, GR Infraprojects, is learnt to have been directed to raise sufficiently high breast walls to check the damage to the 116-year-old British-era track, but the work is yet to be completed at all sites. 

The most vulnerable portion is near Koti (see picture) where several sandbags have been put up beside the track as an emergency measure to check further damage, as a sizeable portion of the hillside has already eroded. 

Loose boulders and trees, with roots exposed, also pose a risk to commuters moving on the highway underneath. Though the company had raised up to 3-metre-high breast walls, these had failed to serve the purpose as the 39-km stretch from Parwanoo to Solan was vulnerable to landslides even when it wasn’t raining, said a regular commuter. 

“The situation is so risky that even a JCB machine, engaged for excavation, got buried under debris and boulders at Tambu Mor late last evening. Several labourers had a narrow escape,” he said. Traffic snarls, particularly from Datiyar to Sanwara, have become a routine, he added. 

Project in-charge, GR Infraprojects, Debasis Patra, said raising higher breast walls was not within the present scope of work and they had sought additional budget from the National Highways Authority of India, which was yet to be granted. He said precautions had been taken to ensure the heritage track wasn’t damaged.