Landslides in Sikkim bound NH10 becomes concern for defense and power sector

Multiple accidents on the road have already taken many lives. At the same time glacier fed turbulent river Teesta along the road has swollen up heavily making any rescue operation too tough.

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To address the crisis, an alternate road is coming up for defense use only. For civilians, NH- 10 has been upgraded to 2-lane standards at an expense of Rs.680 crore.(Representative Image)
With the advent of monsoon, landslides have come back to fragment lifeline of Himalayan state Sikkim NH10. The 110 km long road that connects Sino-Indian boarder and serves near 10 major hydropower projects has become concern for not only the civil arena but national security or power sector too.

Sikkim has received 35% higher than its normal 97mm rainfall during last one week. Multiple landslides following that converted entire road into a death trap with thick flow of slippery mud and uncontrolled rolling of huge boulders. Multiple accidents on the road have already taken many lives. At the same time glacier fed turbulent river Teesta along the road has swollen up heavily making any rescue operation too tough.

Beginning at Siliguri in West Bengal foothills, the 110 Km long serpentine road NH 10 crawls up to Sikkim’s state capital Gangtok at an altitude of 6,000ft. From there, a 54 km long Indian Army maintained road connects it to Sino-Indian border and trade point Nathula at an altitude of 14,000ft.


Following 2017 Doklam stand off, gravity of the road has gone up manifold. But, “Physical condition of NH10 is a major concern,” said a defense official.

The highway crosses three major hydroprojects of NHPC with combined capacity of 802 MW. In addition, hydroprojects at many other locations are also served by this. Naturally, “The road is a great concern for us,” said D. Chattopadhyay, Executive Director of NHPC.

As per state finance department’s assessment, Sikkim’s daily loss due to disruption in NH 10 is over Rs 2 crore of direct revenue. Thus, “True alternate connectivity for Sikkim is my prime agenda,” said Sikkim Chief Minister P. S. Golay.
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To address the crisis, an alternate road is coming up for defense use only. For civilians, NH- 10 has been upgraded to 2-lane standards at an expense of Rs.680 crore.

But, “This widening of the road by heavily cutting steep hills has reduced its natural stability,” argued environment activists.

According to eminent geologist Dr. M Desai, devastating earthquake of 2011 has destabilized the top layer of rocks and soil here. This may keep frequency of landslides high for some time. So “Any project in this region must be very carefully planned with high consideration to geological aspects,” she said.
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