PALPA, Oct 7: It is one of the busiest roads in the central region. Thousands of passengers travel through it every day. However, a road section along the Prithivi Highway has literally changed into a death trap since the last few days. Landslides have not stopped falling down the road while public and private vehicles are seen moving at snail pace. Police personals have been constantly monitoring the section while providing safety alerts to drivers.
“Bus staffs say such congestion has been going on for the past few days. I am stuck here for over 20 hours and I do not know when my bus would move ahead,” said a stranded passenger Khadak Ghimire who left from Pokhara for Butwal. “It feels like that we will be crushed by the landslide at any moment. Though presently there are small landslides falling down, you never know when a huge one comes down crashing. It’s really scary,” he added.
Some passengers lament carelessness exhibited by the drivers. Even though the route is risky, they drive haphazardly, they say. According to the local police, vehicles are stopped from 11 pm to 2 pm every day. During this time, even commuters are not allowed to pass through the road as the road is cleared of debris.
The problem is not at a single point of the highway. Passengers are seen carrying their slipper and shoes in hand and walking at several points of the road. At Tansen-Butwal road block of the highway, huge piles of debris can be seen at least at a dozen points.
Pabitra Mani Acharya, acting chief of Division office of the Road Department informed that, “The major problem is at the Siddhababa area where the road is totally blocked. It may take three more days to clear the road here,” he added.
During landslides last week, a huge rock had fallen at the Siddhababa road point. Police and the road department workers have been working relentlessly to remove the blockade since then, but to no avail. From the diversion nearby to the location of the Siddhababa temple at the road, landslides have been very frequent since then making it even difficult to clear the debris.
“When it rains, more debris is collected there and when there is no rain we try to clear it. We have been doing this over and over again,” said Ghimire said.
With obstructions along the highway, passengers from Butwal to Palpa, Pokhara, Syangja, Gulmi, Arghakhachi and Banglung have been stranded. While their misery is beyond expression, the administration is yet to resolve the situation.
“It will take at least three days or more to clear the debris off the road,” Ghimire stated adding that they have been using every available means to clear the debris. “We are doing our best.
Passengers who want to cross the passage by walking are also being helped. But, landslides have not stopped falling down. It’s very challenging,” says Ghimire.
Last week some travelers were even injured by the landslide near the Siddhababa temple. Truck, car and motorbikes were buried by the debris.
Prabin Acharya, chief of Traffic Police Palpa, said the blockade during the festival of Dashain has made it very difficult to both police and passengers. “From the day of Navami, we have been working constantly. The passengers are upset,” he said. Achraya stressed on working on an optional route at the earliest.
“If we wait for the road to get clear, it is going to take many days. And it’s not possible to keep all the passengers and vehicles stranded till then. It’s crucial that an optional diversion route is brought into effect at the earliest,” he said.
Ghimire informed that there have been discussions over the issue, but said that they don’t have an immediate solution to the situation. There is a long term plan to open tunnel highway from Butuwal to Jhumsa, he said.
A local of Palpa, Bishnu Pandey, said that a lot of passengers who were on their way to offer and receive Dashain tika have been deprived of celebration because of the government’s inability to provide immediate relief. “We tried to comfort as many passengers as possible but our little efforts could not make much difference. The government should have responded with due seriousness.
Poor people!” he remarked. “If the situation is not improved, it might take people’s life,” he added.
Locals have tried to draw the attention of the government. They have even met local political leaders of several parties regarding the matter, said Pandey. “This disaster is due to several reasons including massive destruction of Chure range. The road problem has in fact affected lives of all the people in the region,” he claimed.