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‘Geological investigation must for sustainable roads in hills’

Noted hydrogeologist from Kasauli relates recent damage in rains to changing climate.

Archana Phull | Shimla |

The ecologically fragile hills of Himachal Pradesh need geological investigation prior to construction of roads and bridges, for sustainability in view of changing weather pattern.

“Strong foundation based on basic geological principles holds the key for sustainable development in a cost effective manner in the hill state in view of vagaries of weather in changing climate,” a noted hydro-geologist from Kasauli in Himachal Pradesh, Ritesh Arya, presently Director of Water and Geothermal wing at International Sustainable Emery Organisation (ISEO), Geneva, told The Statesman.

Arya hails from Solan district and holds the Guinness Book of World Record for drilling the highest bore well.

He said the heavy rains and flash floods in Himachal in Monsoons this year, which washed away roads while causing landslides and destabilising bridges, left everyone helpless and led to huge losses in money terms. “Is it really natural that we can’t do anything? Or are we just not taking right decisions to make the change and prevent the damage done?” he questioned.

The hydro geologist said the habitations roads and bridges built on strong geological foundations are very little affected by vagaries of nature. “And this is seen in the buildings, roads and bridges built in Pre-independent India.
Not only pre-Independent India but if we see our ancient forts and villages are also hardly affected even in extreme weather,” he said. “This shows that our ancestors and Britishers had complete knowledge of the geology of the area and were building buildings in geologically stable locations.”

He said this is evident from the fact that the railway and road track from Kalka to Shimla involving 103 tunnels constructed 100 years ago with innumerable bridges and no machines in those times have still stood the test of time.

“The basic difference is attributed to the involvement of geologist in planning and designing of the roads based on the geology of the region. In contrast the present set up in government does not have a dedicated geologist in state and centre to undertake road construction. And they don’t prepare geological maps before executing projects, which results in building of roads, bridges etc on geologically unstable locations,” he said.

Arya said the present Parwanoo – Solan road is an example, the retaining wall (10 feet thick and almost 10-12 feet high) is uniformly built without seeing the geology of the area. In most of the area this is not required.

“The call of making this wall explains and confirms the fact that the geologist was either not involved or he did not do his homework properly. Because had this entire stretch geologically mapped with care unnecessary cutting (10-15 feet) and cost of construction of retaining wall could have been avoided,” he added.