Rishikesh-Karnaprayag railway line: Houses damaged due to blasting work

Mar 30, 2023 04:41 PM IST

Pauri Garhwal resident Anil Dutt Tiwari said the round-the-clock blasting began in 2019 and has also affected their sleep and overall mental health

Around 1000 houses across four Uttarakhand districts have been damaged due to blasting work for the 125-km Rishikesh-Karnaprayag railway project that has been described as a game changer for connectivity in the Garhwal Himalayas, residents and officials said.

The project has been described as a game changer for connectivity in the Garhwal Himalayas. (HT PHOTO)
The project has been described as a game changer for connectivity in the Garhwal Himalayas. (HT PHOTO)

Pauri Garhwal resident Anil Dutt Tiwari said the round-the-clock blasting began in 2019 and has also affected their sleep and overall mental health. He added they staged protests before the district administration constituted a five-member committee to look into their problems.

Tiwari said the committee recommended 1.50 crore compensation to 224 affected families. He added they are still waiting to get compensation for the damage caused to their houses.

“I have spent around 4 lakh to repair the damages. I do not even remember how many hours or days we spent visiting government officers with our grievances,” he said.

He said the construction work has also disturbed the natural sources of water. Tiwari added the waste of tunnel digging is released into tributaries which eventually merge with the Alaknanda, one of the two headstreams of the Ganga.

A worker at the construction site, who did not wish to be named, said one of the two natural sources of water they relied upon in summer for drinking water has been destroyed due to the construction work for the project. “They shunted us from pointing out the unscientific excavation and reinstated us only after our protest.”

Uttarakhand Kranti Dal central secretary Sardar Singh Pundir said the blasting at Baldya Khan village led to cracks in the houses of around 10 families. “...land subsidence has also occurred at Byasi village for which the villagers have been assured of compensation but have not received it yet.”

Vimla Devi, a Baldya Khan resident, said they get up with every blast fearing their house may cave in. “...my children cannot sleep and wake up crying in the middle of the night.”

Sohan Singh of Atali village said they have been promised compensation for the cracks and told that the process will begin only after a survey of the area.

In Lachmoli village, over 50 houses have developed cracks. Suman Rana, a resident of this village, said the cracks are widening due to the tunnel blasting that continues round the clock. “One wall has caved in. When we complained, we were offered a sack of cement which we returned and repaired it on our own.”

Rail Vikas Nigam Limited liaison officer Vinod Bisht said they have received complaints of damages to about 1000 houses due to blasting.

The railways acquired private land for the project across 45 villages in five districts of Dehradun, Tehri Garhwal, Pauri Garhwal, Rudraprayag, and Chamoli districts affecting 355 houses and 5513 families. Of the total land acquired, 71.56% covers forests.

869 crore has been paid as compensation to people for the acquisition of private land, an official said.

In January, the railways admitted that cracks were reported in Maroda village in Rudraprayag while carrying out slope stabilisation work. It cited three landslides and added the design scheme of slope stabilisation was therefore changed to a stronger and more reliable one.

“The slope is tectonically stable and without any undue movement for the past year. The tunneling activity has not been started and village land has been acquired completely and 21 crore has been deposited for land and houses,” the railways said in a statement.

The railways maintained a geological survey was carried out to ascertain the hazards in advance and mitigation measures. An airborne electromagnetic survey was also carried out to find out the water bodies above the tunnel alignment to preserve groundwater and the environment, it said.

A railway official said tunnelling in the fragile ground is also being executed by adopting control blasting. He added underground excavation, where the ground is weak, is being carried out by mechanical means ensuring the stability of tunnels and surrounding ground.

The official said the damages in houses are not due to control blasting, but construction problems. “We have been regularly monitoring the cracks being reported. We have documentary evidence like photographs and videography. We also installed crack metres in houses which showed no change in size even during control blasting.”

He said it is the sound generated during blasting that causes problems. “Following complaints, we have started putting up curtains to reduce the sound that goes out of the tunnel. It was reduced to 75-80 decibels which were earlier 120 decibels. It is equal to the sound generated by vehicles plying on the road.”

Additional secretary (disaster management) Anand Srivastava said they do not have any data concerning damages caused to houses due to the construction of the railway project.

The broad gauge rail line estimated to cost over 16,200 crore will connect Rishikesh in the foothills to Karnaprayag. It will have 35 bridges and 17 tunnels. The tunnels include a 15.1-km-long tunnel from Devprayag to Lachmoli.

In January, the railways tweeted that around 33% of work on the project has been completed, which includes 83 km tunnelling.

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