CONCERNED AUTHORITIES ADVISED TO CONSIDER PASSING APPROPRIATE ORDERS TO ENSURE NO HINDRANCE TO HIGHWAY REPAIRS AND UPGRADATION
GANGTOK, 29 May: The Sikkim High Court has recorded dissatisfaction with the pace of work on highway repair and restoration being carried out by Project Swastik of the Border Roads Organsiation in the State. A division bench of the High Court, in fresh directions to the Ministry of Surface Transport and Project Swastik, has sought a fresh comprehensive and detailed report within a month. BRO is submitting its quarterly reports in the Court on the status and pace of work undertaken in Sikkim including on the National Highway 31-A.
The Sikkim High Court had taken up a PIL suo moto on the poor condition of NH-31A and other border roads in Sikkim in the year 2010 and, in orders passed in 2011, directed the BRO to submit quarterly progress reports.
The division bench of Chief Justice Permod Kohli and Justice SP Wangdi, in its order passed yesterday, observed that “the pace of progress is either too slow or static at the same place,” adding the in some cases, even though the required sanctions were accorded in the year 2009, the progress is “not encouraging except few items”.
Regarding the NH-31A, the Court observed that some of the works, though approved have not even commenced.
The Central government Standing Counsel Karma Thinlay submitted that in some of the works, the State Forest Department has not given clearance and in some of the cases [for areas falling in West Bengal] clearance from National Wild Life Board is waited.
The High Court has directed the State Government to clear all the proposed projects/ issues pending with the State Forest Department for grant of clearance for widening and upgradation of roads wherever it has been asked for.
The Court has also directed all authorities “whether under the Government of India, West Bengal or State of Sikkim” consider passing “appropriate orders to ensure that no hindrance is created in widening, upgradation of National Highway 31-A and other various roads for which various works have been undertaken by GREF and state Public Works Department.”
Project Swastik has identified 26 “most troublesome spots” which, it states, are being constantly monitored since the 18 September Earthquake of last year.
Meanwhile, Project Swastik has submitted an initial estimate of Rs. 100 crores to the Centre for full restoration of damaged roads along the JN Marg and North Sikkim Highway. It has also proposed three tunnels - one of 600 metres at Theeng on North Sikkim Highway and two of 1.5 kms length each on JN Marg - at an estimated cost of around Rs. 160 crore, in addition to repairs of damage caused by the earthquake.
BRO sources add that undertaking back-cutting and widening works on National Highway 31-A at night [to avoid traffic snarls] was not feasible because of the increased risk of working in darkness.