A vehicle gets stuck in the mud along the Beni Jomsom road section in this recent photo. Photo: Republica
MYAGDI, Sept 15: The obstructions at Beni-Jomsom road section has further aggravated due to consistent rainfall. The rugged stretch of 76-kilometer road does not have a functioning bridge anymore. While the only bridge in the road is on the verge of collapse, the entire road itself looks worn out.
This is the only motorable road that leads to Mustang through Myagdi. In half a dozen of points, the road has sunk. Similarly, debris of landslides has created obstacles throughout the way. Since the past few weeks, vehicles are not plying regularly.
“The road condition sends shivers down the spine. It is extremely risky to use it,” said Dam Bahadur Pun, chairperson of Annapurna Rural Municipality. “Now, the best option left for the pilgrims visiting Muktinath is to walk. It is only by foot they can reach the temple,” he suggested, although the air route will be shorter but costlier.
Visitors to Muktinath have been obliged to trek from Pairothopla to Kopchepani due to the road obstructions. Even while trekking here, pilgrims must be extremely careful, according to Pun.
“It is not possible to get vehicles through, so people have to walk. But even then, they must really be careful. The trekking route is quite challenging,” Pun warned.
Pun stated that the fragile soil and the complex topography make it difficult for trekkers around Muktinath and Jomsom area. Soil at several places has eroded and cracks are also commonly seen on the surface.
“We have been coordinating with the concerned local units for the safety of people. It takes around three hours’ walk from our rural municipality to reach Mustang. The route is risky,” Pun informed.
Locals are not happy with the local authority though. The delay in repairing the road at Kavrebhir of Thasang Rural Municipality has caused immense inconvenience to the people, and yet the authority has not shown any eagerness to repair the road, they allege.
According to Pun, locals have the right to accuse the authority for the lack of due response. However, he put the blame on ‘haphazard development’ for the sorry state of the entire region.
“In the name of development, new tracks were opened through settlements without proper study and engineering. Now, landslides have become quite frequent. Landslides have not only affected transportation facility but have also put human settlements at risk,” he stated.
Pun reported that people’s fertile lands have also been claimed by landslides. He was of the opinion that ‘a high level interference’ is needed to bring things back to the right course.
“This is not just the issue of Beni-Jomsom road. In fact, the entire region here is in danger. Due to excessive use of excavators and dozers, the land has become very fragile. The topography here was already bit complex. Now I feel that there is a need of a very strategic high level plan to address the problem,” he said. “People are deprived of transportation service, that’s one thing. They are also losing their fertile lands, their life is at risk due to unpredictable landslides,” he elaborated.
Every year, the Kali Gandaki River changes its course. After the road was washed away, culverts and water passages have been hard hit. Apple farmers have met cruel fate as their products are rotting.
According to Tara Prasad Acharya, tourism entrepreneurs from Myagdi, business in Mustang is hard hit. “It is not just about apples, it has had a very wide effect,” he said. “The lifeline of Mustang is obstructed.”
Meanwhile, Narendra Subedi, chief of Beni - Jomson Road Project stated that the sorry state of the road is due to the force of the Kali Gandaki River. “This time, there was extreme rainfall. The water level was high, it was equally forceful. The road was hard hit by the river. Similarly, there were landslides,” he said. “The road has eroded. It has indeed become dangerous to travel,” he added.
He further stated that it will take a week to clear the debris of the road.
“We are upgrading Beni-Jomsom road,” said Subedi, adding that if there is not much landslides in the coming days, vehicles may ply on the road in a week.
The ‘craze for Muktinath Darshan’ is high among both domestic and Indian pilgrims. However, the local authority has not suggested pilgrimage at present. Subedi was of the opinion that the trip could be safer post monsoon.
Pun also stated that the pilgrimage to Muktinath would be safer once rain stops bothering. “The soil has become very fragile. It will be safe to travel once there is little or no rain,” he said.