Asian Highway 2 maintenance : Remember Khongnem Thana
The only reliable National Highway of Manipur is the erstwhile Highway 39, now Asian Highway 2, route connecting to the rest of the country. A few hours observation along its stretch will serve good understanding about its relevance. Days and nights are congested with traffic and cargo movements. Road widening activities at certain sections are current visible ongoing process, the completion of which will enhance undisturbed traffic flows. For decades Asian Highway 2 or Imphal-Dimapur Highway has been the sole route supporting the basic necessities of the people. Many use to address it as ‘Highway of Life.’
Inclusion of Manipur in landslides hazard zonal map of India, ranging within very high to high landslide prone zone, underscores the challenges posed in highway management. During the rainy season, when there is incessant rainfall for days and weeks, landslides, mud-slides and sinking stretches are foreseen disasters.
Lining in queue the vehicles stuck on both sides of the damaged portion waiting for hours is the follow-up reality. Emergency services are a far cry during those moments of natural disaster. Movements are marked by uncertainty during rainy season.
Timeline indicating remarkable incidents of natural disaster along this highway in the past many years is the testimony. Mudslide of Gopibung, Keithelmanbi area, in 2004 can be described as the millennium’s worst kind. Besides, there are several other cases every year. In one portion or the other, each year the highway has its own story of grievances at different intervals of time. Frequent commuters along this highway for professional, business or personal purposes would understand the inconveniences. From small children, students to elderly, business trips to medical treatment purposes, ceremonial vehicles to cargo and many more, the highway has been serving the people. Students in school and college uniforms are a common view on this stretch. Dysfunction in any part of the stretch affects the whole.
Nevertheless, visible positive development has been experienced since the year 2019. Dedicated road construction activities for enhanced vehicular movements started on the highway under the initiative of Bharat Infra Project Limited (BIPL). Company name tags are put up in overall sites of construction activities. Heavy machineries, vehicles, work sites, settlement sites, signboards, equipment and men at work in progress were the silent features for many months of the past years.
By the end of the year, the road condition improved at such a rate, except for some portion in Sapormeina, the road condition from Imphal to Mao gate was recommendable for its efficient management. The famed ‘Cherry Blossom Festival’ of Mao Gate, Manipur organised every first week of December bears resemblance to the improved road. Once a post-graduate student who went to visit the spot during early part of 2019 remarked; ‘We in high spirit, to experience the beauty of nature, got down at Mao Flower Festival spot. My eye-lashes were heavy with ‘mascara’. Later, during the travel, dust accumulated making the eye-lash become heavy and dusty as well. Everyone commented it’s not ‘mascara’ but ‘dustcara.’
By mid-2019, every time while travelling along the highway felt like appreciating the road construction initiative, and also recommending that the young girl visit again with mascara.
Unfortunately, followed by incessant rain for weeks, on October 25th 2020, a massive landslide took place at Khongnem Thana village of NH-2. The landslide is known to have caused a depression of almost 40-50 feet in length and 30 feet in depth forcing the traffic to halt. Media reports mentioned that more than 200 load trucks were stranded along the highway.
Department concerned of the State took up responded immediately. It took more than a week to complete cutting out a new route replacing the damaged one. Immediate land acquisition with consent from the villagers was made to reconstruct the new approach road negotiating with compensation. The measures enabled smooth flow of traffic till date.
However, the damaged portion has been mended in a more temporary manner. The surrounding area and the same spot are prone to more adverse conditions if not taken care in time. ‘A stitch in time saves nine’ is relevant here. Attention is sought from responsible authority of the Government of Manipur to look into the matter. Villagers and regular passengers would extend a hearty gratitude to the Government if needful measures are taken up in time. It would reduce the anxieties of the people when another wet season arrives with incessant rain. Landslides and restrictions of traffic movements for days and weeks causes big economic loss, shatter aspirations, separate many from their families and create unseen hardships.
Difficult must be highway maintenance on fragile soil of hilly rough terrain with monsoon vagaries, yet efficient management with effective precautionary measures are expected. Mechanisms to avoid traffic flow disruption will minimise public hardships. This is a humble clarion call to all responsible concerned by the heavy traffic. The aesthetic natural beauty of hilly tracts be boosted with enhanced connectivity. When people of the same State are unable to easily reach out within, development works will be like a balm. Before another rainy season arrive, please do remember the landslide portion of Khongnem Thana of National Highway 2.