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Latest rockfall on Dimapur-Kohima highway reignites safety concerns


PWD (National Highway), Nagaland accused NHIDCL of not taking up necessary measures to address and mitigate the risks despite HLTC’s recommendation for immediate action.

By Imna Longchar, TFM Nagaland Correspondent

Exactly a year after, another rockfall on the NH-29 between the stretch of Patkai bridge and Kukidolong smashed a Bolero vehicle injuring all four occupants on July 4. Co-incidentally, it was on July 4, 2023, that two persons were killed while three were grievously injured within the same stretch (4-Lane Highway) when falling rocks smashed into several vehicles they were travelling.

Expressing concern over safety of the commuters after the July 4 incident last year, it was learnt that the Nagaland state government had officially taken the matter up with the NHIDCL officials on 18 different occasions from April 11, 2023, to June 6 this year but no initiatives were implemented.

In a press statement issued by PWD (National Highway), Nagaland, on Sunday,  while highlighting the department’s engagement with the implementing agency stated that following last year’s July 4 rockfall incident within the same stretch, the state government had constituted a High-Level Technical Committee (HLTC) the next day of the incident, July 5, 2023,  wherein, the HLTC members had submitted its report and recommendations which were later conveyed to the NHIDCL on July 19 last year for immediate action.

According to a press release, as per the recommendations, the NHIDCL was directed to carry out short-term measures, undertake a comprehensive study of the terrain and take up necessary measures to address and mitigate the risks in the future.

The release also stated that further concerns were highlighted by the state government in December 2023 basing on a report by an independent technical expert committee of IIT (Bombay). The report had raised serious concern about the construction of the road, as well as the hill-cutting method, pointing out significant deviations from IRC guidelines, inadequate slope protection, poor rockfall mitigation, and non-compliance with safety and quality standards, among other issues.

It also stated that as a follow up, the NHIDCL was instructed to examine the works to be undertaken so as to make NH 29 a safe, smooth, and all-weather national highway.

It was said that the Nagaland state Cabinet, taking cognisance of the growing safety concerns, discussed the measures that needed to be taken during a meeting held on January 22 this year where it decided to engage an independent third party to undertake a detailed study and recommend measures so that the highway could be made safe for commuters.

Accordingly, IIT Guwahati was engaged to undertake this exercise, which would commence its studies shortly.

The state Cabinet had also questioned the NHIDCL as to how and why the completion certificate for Dimapur-Kohima Package-II has been issued when several portions are still to be completed and quality issues remain to be addressed, it said. The office of the Managing Director, NHIDCL headquarters was also apprised of these concerns on January 31, 2024, it added.

The PWD (NH) said in the month of April this year, the Nagaland government instructed NHIDCL to provide a detailed report outlining the specific safety measures implemented along the “Pagalapahar” stretch of NH-29, while warning the agency that it would be held solely accountable for any incidents or accidents arising from inadequate safety measures. Despite the state government’s ongoing efforts to ensure road safety for all commuters, a recent rockfall incident at the same stretch, resulting in passenger injuries and significant vehicle damage, has caused serious concern.

“The state government is resolute to take up the matter with the concerned authorities in all seriousness to effectively address the matter and urge the proactive and sincere response of the NHIDCL to achieve this collective goal for the safety of commuters,” the PWD (NH) department further maintained.

Meanwhile, a separate press release issued by Rising People’s Party (RPP) on Sunday, said another rock fall on July 4 along the NH-29 Patkai bridge-Kukidolong stretch smashing a Bolero vehicle and injuring four of its occupants was a matter of serious concern.

The RPP said it was exactly a year ago on July 4 2023 that two persons were killed and three injured on the same stretch when falling rocks smashed into several vehicles, where a huge ‘hue and cry” was raised then but as usual the NDPP-BJP coalition did nothing. Instead, to eyewash a serious negligence, the PDA government instituted a High-Level Technical Committee (HLTC) to ‘study’ the issue, whose report is still awaited in public domain.

It questioned when the PDA will realize that governance is all about accountability and responsibility. “What does Dy. CM TR Zeliang mean by “Short-term maintenance contract” which the PDA apparently instituted after last year’s tragic incident? The Naga people will not be fooled by such utterances.

After last year’s incident, was the NHIDCL brought to task for the haphazard manner in which four-laning was carried out including usage of dynamites in loosely-soiled mountainous area? Was anybody held accountable? Were anybody in the NHIDCL or the government suspended or jailed? Did the government take action upon the state nodal department – R&B (National Highway) – overseeing the activities of NHIDCL in the state? Will the PDA government explain why the state police did not take any action upon the RPP FIR complaint filed at the Choumoukedima Police Station against NHIDCL officials in the aftermath of the deaths?

Why is this PDA government reduced to merely issuing “Travel Advisory” after each tragedy, year after year? Will the rocks stop falling after the PDA government issues their “Travel Advisory”?

Were the relatives of the dead and the injured in 2023 compensated and whether the recently injured are going to be compensated?

These are some of the questions which the PDA government has to answer.

The RPP demands that the NHIDCL be booked for criminal negligence. Also, just for the sake of curiosity, the precious contents of the ‘ultra-secret HLTC report’ may be made public by the PDA government.

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