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Landslides detached Darjeeling, disrupted World Heritage ‘Toy Train’ service

SILIGURI: Monsoon and heavy rainfall induced landslides have started taking its toll on queen of hills Darjeeling by almost detaching the hill city and many other adjoining habitations from rest of the world. Narrow Gauge track of legendary World Heritage Site ‘Toy Train‘ is also badly damaged.

Around ten big landslides during the last 2 days have already shattered communication to Darjeeling and adjoining places. The most dangerous one among them between Gayabari and Paglajhora has washed out a long stretch of NH55 that connects Darjeeling with the plains world. Beside road, the legendary narrow gauge track of Toy Train that chugs along the road has also incurred heavy damage at many places.

According to G. N Raha from Indian meteorology Department, Darjeeling had 79% deficit rainfall till 1st June. But heavy shower after that has pushed up the cumulative figure to 660mm against normal level of 540mm till 29th June. That is 22% excess over normal rainfall.

“Continuing heavy rain has made rescue operations and restoration of road links very difficult. Though few smaller alternate road links are there, disruptions in NH 55 have magnified the prevailing crisis due to Pandemic,” said Chandra Vugel, a local resident at Gayabari.

“It is too difficult to predict any time frame for restoration of normalcy. We are trying our best, ” said a senior Public Workers Department official.

Interestingly, “Very young and fragile rocky base of the whole Darjeeling needs to be handled very carefully,” said eminent geologist Dr. M. Desai. But ground reality shows entirely different pictures.

As landslide expert Dr. U. M. Pradhan noted, Darjeeling could never control usage and disposal of plastic. Littering of those develops blockage in jhoras (Small waterfalls) causing alternate water seepage lines, loosening of soil and finally landslides.

Load bearing capacity of the roads has never been set under geological consideration. Vehicles ply there without any load restriction.

Against the British era rule of allowing only two storied light weight material buildings, Darjeeling civic administration now allow Reinforced Cement Concrete (RCC) constructions of over 13.5 meter (5 storied) high even on steep terrains.

“All these are practically inviting landslides,” said Arup Guha, noted environmentalist.

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