Wednesday, August 9, 2000,
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HP flood havoc: herculean task ahead; Kinnaur area remains cut off
From Rakesh Lohumi
Tribune News Service

NATHPA (KINNAUR), Aug 8 While the destruction caused by the Sutlej water was confined to the narrow banks along the river, its impact has been felt far and wide.

The wiping out of the 50-odd bridges, including 12 important road bridges, and vast stretches of the national highway has cut off the entire tribal Kinnaur district and Nirmand and Ani areas of Kulu district from the hot of the country. The bridges on the national highway, the lifeline of Kinnaur, located at strategic points provided connectivity to numerous small valleys. Their collapse has severely affected those living in radius of 50 km to 70 km of the Sutlej.

For instance, the washing away of the Karcham bridge has cut off the Sangla valley. As a result, contact with those living up to Chitkul, 75 km from the river bank, has been cut off. Similarly, the breaches in the national highway near Pooh has snapped the road link to the Sunam valley.

The collapse of the Moorang bridge has cut off the Thangi valley from Moorang to Kuno Charang.

There are many other areas and pockets like the Riba valley, Pandra Bees and Tashigong that will have to do without any road link for quite some time.

The maximum havoc has been wreaked between Khab, and Wangtu, as many as 14 bridges have been washed away between these two points. These include the bridges at Tashigong, Khab, Nisang, Moorang, Akpa, Riba Powari, Shongtong and Karcham. The approach road to the Wangtu bridge has been washed away though there has been no harm to the bridge.

In all, a population of 1.50 lakh will be affected in Kinnaur, Kulu and Shimla districts. After October, when the Kunzum Pass is closed due to snow, even the people of Spiti will feel the pinch as for about nine months in a year they use the Kinnaur route.

It will, indeed, be a herculean effort to restore the large number of bridges and about 100 km of road length of which about 50 per cent has either been washed away or extensively damaged.

The construction of bailey bridges will take a long time. At some points the span of the river has increased by 50 to 75 metres as a result of which new bridges cannot be built. In Powari, the river has cut deep into the banks, increasing the span from 125m to over 200m. Engineers are now looking for a new site upstream or downstream where the width of the river is narrow to build a new bridge.

A similar situation prevails in case of several other bridges. A new site involves construction of new approaches on both sides which will require much time.

According to senior officers supervising restoration work reconstruction of roads, where the river has cut deep into the hill will be a laborious and time-consuming task. In most cases the road will have to be realigned.

In Pooh, Moorang, Akpa and Choeling, the national highway will have to be reconstructed by cutting or blasting hard rocks which rise vertically from the banks. This will require much funds and time, the assistance rendered by the Army notwithstanding.

The government, which is aware of the ground reality, has already taken up restoration of neglected footpaths and mule tracks on a war footing. The old Hindustan-Tibet road between Rekong Peo and Tapri is being restored. Tenders have been invited for carriage of essential commodities and other items on mules to cut off areas.

For the time-being, supplies are being airlifted. But it will not be possible to airlift items for over 80,000 people in this manner. The restoration of road link is essential to bring back normalcy, but it will require a sustained effort.
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