It will take at least three years and more than Rs. 2,000 crore to restore the highways and bridges that have been damaged in the flashfloods and landslides that struck Uttarakhand 12 days ago.
However, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), which has built a majority of the national highways, and the Uttarakhand Public Works Department (PWD) have informed the Union highways ministry that it will be able to temporarily restore the damaged roads and bridges in two to three months.
Highways secretary Vijay Chibber has written to the finance ministry, asking it to sanction Rs. 300 crore. The Uttarakhand PWD has sought Rs. 30 crore from the ministry.
“The damage to the highways has been extensive. Full restoration will take two to three years. Though the BRO is yet to give us an estimate of the damage, it is expected to be in the range of Rs. 2,000 crore,” a senior highways ministry official said.
“Currently our focus is on restoring the vital road links,” the official added.
The flashfloods damaged more than 1,200 roads and nearly 190 bridges, temporary and permanent, have been broken. PWD officials said on Thursday 892 roads, measuring nearly 8,000 km and situated mainly in Rudraprayag, Chamoli, Uttarkashi and Pauri Garhwal districts, have been cleared for vehicles.
While four national highway stretches in the Uttarakhand region are under the BRO, the state PWD maintains five.
“The stretches under the BRO are affected in a major way and will take longer to restore. Of these, two stretches — in Rishikesh and Rudraprayag — have been extensively damaged,” the official said.
On Tuesday, highways minister Oscar Fernandes went to Dehradun to review the progress of restoration. “We have told them to expedite work, which the inclement weather is hampering,” an official said.
The BRO has pressed into service more than 120 excavators and bulldozers. About 4,000 BRO personnel and labourers are working to restore the road links.
“The Garhwal hills are comparatively weak and therefore it will be an arduous task to bring infrastructure to its original form. It could be done in eight-nine months provided work is done on a war footing,” said SS Pangti, a retired IAS officer.
(with inputs from Dehradun)