IMPHAL, June 12: A Centre for Organisation Research and Education (CORE) executive team traversed the National Highway 37 – formerly known as NH 53 on 2nd June this year enroute to Jiribam from Imphal to participate in the celebrations of World Environment Day in the villages of Kaiphundai and Khangbor in Tamenglong and Churachandpur districts respectively, said a press statement.
Adding that, it means to state that a major portion of this much maligned national highway is comfortably motorable for any kind of vehicle. The journey revealed that there is much more to this important “lifeline of Manipur” than just a story of a neglected highway and an incompetent organisation entrusted with the task to maintain it.
The highway (NH 37), when they looked at it critically and in detail, is not always like the commonly shared image of mud, dirt and rocks throughout its length – first of all. There are many sections that are in excellent condition, so it is untrue to say that this entire highway is neglected. The road is in a very bad condition in several sections and places, and these sections have been more or less identified as chronic problem areas such as land and rock slide, sinking or perennially wet due to seepage of water, etc. So they looked at these sections with more attention to decipher the underlying factors for this chronicity. According to the team’s finding findings; The key bridges at Irang, Barak and Makru Rivers for example, and some of the larger associated culverts are just not given the urgent due attention that they deserve from the highways authority for many years, resulting in outdated and dangerous structures, it continued.
It seems to CORE that these crucial infrastructures for the maintenance of traffic on this highway have received no capital investment or planning exercise; The associated approach sections to these precarious bridges and culverts are naturally also in a very bad condition because of the neglect of these structures; There are a few well known “sinking sections” on this highway but no substantial effort to make a lasting shoring of these sections are seen from the authority organisation – these sections, which are few in number must be given high priority attention along with the bridges mentioned; There is a new threat to this highway that is not recognised at all. The constructions underway undertaken by the NFR (Northeast Frontier Railway) for the Jiribam to Tupul broad-gauge railway line is taking a very heavy toll on the highway in those sections where the railway will run in the vicinity of the road. Very heavy machinery and loaded trucks use these sections continuously with heavy loads and with great daily frequency. It is unclear to CORE whether the NFR’s railway construction budget for this works running into thousands of Crores of rupees includes a direct compensation to the highway authority and the state for its use, repairs and maintenance of road and drainage, maintained the statement.
In such identified sections where the NFR and its contractor firms are heavily using the road with heavy machinery and loaded vehicles, the NFR’s responsibility must clearly established, and such wear and tear that is seen on these sections must be Railway’s direct responsibility too BECAUSE as long as this construction works continue – well into 2018 and perhaps beyond, these sections will continue to be in jeopardy affecting the normal passenger and freight traffic drastically, said the release.
The government of Manipur must monitor usage of the highway by the NFR through a standing expert committee that constantly keeps an eye on the activities that affect and damage the highway, the environment, rivers, forests and tribal communities living nearby.
Further, there are hundreds of freight trucks plying on the NH 37 beyond permissible load limits, which cause very serious damage to the surface of the road and directly affecting the pitiable bridges. Permissible load limits on freight trucks must be regularly and stringently enforced.
CORE strongly urges the government of Manipur and concerned authorities such as BRTF, NFR, PWD, FCI, etc., that once these five priority areas are taken care of on urgent top priority basis, we can also stop passing the buck to anyone and everyone in an under-informed and summary manner, said a statement from the executive director.