The onset of the monsoon has exacerbated the fears of travellers on the Prithivi Highway. Could my vehicle be trapped in a landslide, even causing death? Or will I be trapped at Krishna Bhir and spend a couple of days there paying Rs 100-150 for a plate of dal-baht? This is the kind of thing on people's minds.
The Prithivi Highway is the only highway that connects the capital with 67 of the 75 districts. For a long time the landslide at Jogimara troubled them. The disruption of transport there caused prices in Kathmandu to rise and also took many human lives. Just when Jogimara had been controlled, Krishna Bhir has begun troubling us. Over Rs 10.5 million has already spent on managing this landslide, and bulldozers are employed there day and night, but we still don't have a clue when the road there will be reliable. Now there is one more problem landslide in the making, at Dahaki Bhir, six km east of Kurintar.
The site engineer of the roads department at Gajuri, Ananta Poudel, says the road was taken through a hillock made of the debris of an ancient landslide, which is why we have a landslide at Dahaki. It is water under the surface that has begun to seep out and cause the landslide. "But this one is not as problematic as Krishna Bhir," adds Poudel.
Krishna Bhir began slipping two years ago and there are no signs of that coming to an end soon. The slush mud and debris because surveys have shown that there is no hard rock under its surface, up to a depth of about 20 meters. Because the mountain is made of sandy, loose clay the moment it begins to rain the slush begins to flow. And it may take many years and billions to fully control the landslide. Now foreign donor agencies have also begun to study this problem.
Work is now underway to build check dams costing several million rupees to try to stop the slush and mud from flowing on the road. The check dams are being built using polyethylene sheets on the ground to prevent the slush from seeping in-hoping by the time the plastic rots, there the mud will have settled. So far, Krishna Bhir alone has the record of having caused a traffic jam for 20 days. Besides these there are over 20 landslides between Thankot and Mugling, which also do their share of traffic obstruction every now and then.