Harsh climate hits work on roads along border with China

Three years have passed since the Urban Development Ministry took over the tough task of connecting two of the highest locations situated at an altitude of 17,000 feet along the China border to the rest of the country. But till today, only about 30 per cent of the work on the two roads has been completed, admit officials, citing difficult conditions of work at that altitude.

The two roads, Giagang to Karang (31 km) in Sikkim and Niti-Geldung (24 km) in Uttarakhand, are being constructed on the request of the Home Ministry so that the Indo Tibetan Border Police can get better access to food and other supplies. The deadline to complete the work was December 2012.

Officials of the road building agency, the Central Public Works Department, said they were facing climatic constraints and most of the officials dealing with the work were suffering from acute mountain sickness.

"We have been asked to complete the project within the next two years and we are hopeful of meeting the deadline," said A K Khurana, Director General, CPWD.

As the construction is being done at a very high altitude, snow is hampering construction. For these roads, the CPWD is following a method suggested by Central Road Research Institute. "The CRRI suggested that we use a technique that if snow accumulates on the road, it automatically gets drained out from beneath. Ice has a tendency to expand, so cracks could appear on the surface if we use the regular technology for constructing roads that we use on the plains," said a senior official.

Officials said there was no habitation at these locations. "And since there is no connectivity, there is also no population. Security forces still man these areas amid great difficulties. To tide over this crisis, we were asked to construct these stretches. For many months we have to stop work on the roads altogether due to heavy snowfall," said another official.

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