20K Cr National Highway 5 four-lane devastation: NHAI & Grill company turns the table on NGT for not granting permission to cut hills

National Highway Authority of India and Grill company responsible for four-lane construction between Parwanoo and Shimla has turned the table in National Green Tribunal for not granting permission for hill cutting beyond five meters now causing devastation tunes to Rs 20,000 Cr to newly constructed NH-5 & NH-3 four-lane in Himachal Pradesh

It is worthwhile to mention that NHAI and Grill company was accused by the Former Deputy Mayor Tekinder Singh Panwar of vertical cutting of hills between Parwanoo to Shimla as Mr. Panwar booked duo(NHAI and company) for unscientific hill cutting leading to the caving in of four-lane along the hillside of Koushalya river. Mr Panwar has accused the company of not having sufficient background and it was blamed for a 90-degree steep hill cutting that allegedly caused the devastation on the newly constructed NH-5.

Now Balwinder Singh, Project Manager Grill Company has stated before the team constituted by the government of India to Investigate the major reason for the collapse of the Parwanoo-Shimla four-lane that the cutting was not done as per the prescribed standards. He stated that the company had sought permission for 45 meters of construction however they have been allowed to construct only 35 meters by NGT.

During the Investigation NHAI officers also stated that Parwanoo – Shimla four-lane is not even complete yet and it is collapsing continuously.  The main reason for this is not getting permission for cutting under the prescribed standards. 

 According to experts, the company had sought permission from the government and the NGT to cut 45 meters at the time of the four-lane construction.  

NHAI officials constantly being blamed for the unscientific cutting of hills showed their inability that they could not construct the highway accordingly as they couldn’t disobey NGT directions.

“The argument and documentation reflect that they are not solely responsible for the disasters as they were allowed to cut the hill from zero to five meters at an angle of repose which was not prescribed standard as the angle of repose should be between zero to 15 meters.” Duo maintained before the Investigation team.

NHAI and Company said that four lanes roads and dividers were supposed to require 30-meter widths and 15-meter cutting on the repose angle however NGT permitted the company to cut 35 meters. 

NHAI said that on the valley side of the four lanes, there was very less space for the construction of a four-lane, so it couldn’t move to the other side.

According to the experts, all the Shivalik hills are on the side of the four-lane. The entire hill is sedimentary loose strata. Also, due to the felling of trees, the soil has become completely loose. On the other hand, the world heritage Kalka-Shimla railway track is also under threat due to frequent landslides along the four-lane. According to experts, if a new road is built somewhere in the hilly areas, then it takes 30 to 40 years for the soil to be paved again.  

In such a situation, if concrete arrangements are not made on the highway, then the houses built on the side of the fore lane will continue to be in danger in the coming years.  

The company had sought permission of 45 meters from NGT for the construction of four lanes, which it did not get.  

In such a situation, straight cutting had to be done on the hill. According to the rules, cutting from 45 to 55 meters is done in four-lane construction. Due to less cutting, now the hills are continuously caving in. The constant rains in the last four months in the state further precipitated soil erosion on the steep hills.

The NHAI said that cutting on the hillside on the top of hills was already cut five meters of space which they were permitted to cut directly.

The purpose of seeking permission from the company for cutting 45 meters was that they had to cut 15 meters of the mountain in three-step cuttings to be done at five meters each.  Due to step cutting, there was less scope for soil sliding. Also, it had to have more grip. But now only a five-meter straight cutting was done. 

 The result of this is that there is no place for the soil to stop here and it is coming on the road.  

It shows that permission granted to the company now proved disastrous now as due to straight cutting, These mountains are continuously caving in form of the massive landslides as there is no firm place in the mountain.

The construction done by the company on the tight rope and having less permitted expansion for cutting should not proceed ahead by the NHAI and Company and it should again and again present the case before NGT for its errors of judgment in the matter, this was stated by a former chief engineer of a hydro projects.

Union minister Nitin Gadkari while on his recent visit to Manali stated devastation caused to NH-3 and NH5 may be more than 20000Cr in the heavy rainfall.

Mr. Gadkari has constituted an expert team comprising scientists from IIT Roorkee and IIT Mandi which is recently visited the rain-ravaged or ruined four lanes between Kiratpur-Manali and Parwanoo and Shimla.

In the last one month itself, the state’s economy worth crores has suffered a setback due to the closure of four lanes at Chakkimod for several days. 

A State government functionary on the condition of anonymity said that NGT didn’t allow the cutting of Kummarhati-Nahan Highway beyond five meters as it was reluctant to permit green felling beyond five meters and move to protect more trees and vegetation now proved a disaster in the background of devastating rain.

 He said that due to the constant danger of caving in hills and uprooting trees from the steep hills in Shimla town as well and many roads did not take a heavy toll on lives and property but people are living in constant fear as massive trees had been damaged vehicles and buses. NHAI seems to be aware of the fact as four lanes from Shoghi to Dhalli were separated from old NH-5 now.

If we believe that whatever NHAI & Construction firm stated before the Investigation team is true, the issue seems to be gone bad to worst due to overdoses of advocacy on the part of environment crusaders and as a matter of policy on the over-emphasis on protecting nature vis a vis to human life and property.

It is worthwhile to mention here that advocacy on the part of such nature crusaders not only press the people to back to the wall but the state couldn’t able to defend it even during the legal battle on similar policy matters.

The matter of policy state as a party in the entire litigations on other similar matters being posed as main violaters before the court truth appears something else.

The question remains unanswered how could center and state governments allow people to live at risk and be posed constant danger from such infrastructure where uprooted trees and hills could bury them under it.

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