A major landslide occurred in the gap-road stretch of the Kochi-Dhanushkodi National Highway near Munnar on September 26, Sunday night. Massive rocks fell on the Muttukadu road due to heavy rain. According to revenue officials, the landslide was significant and more time was needed to clear the debris. According to Devikulam sub-collector Rahul Krishna Sharma, an order was issued to suspend traffic in Munnar-Devikulam through the gap-road stretch. Last year, a major landslide had similarly occurred in the same spot.
Rex Felix, assistant executive engineer, NHAI (National Highway Authority of India) in Devikulam, said that they started to remove the debris from the road on Monday morning but due to heavy rain, the work was temporarily halted. "The debris will be removed from the road at the earliest," he said.
Earlier, traffic along the gap-road stretch had been suspended following a major landslide on June 17, 2020. Another major landslide on August 6 last year caused large-scale damage to farmlands. In the two landslides, vast areas of farmland in the downhill area were destroyed. The last landslide resulted in nearly 200 metres of road being washed away. Work to repair the roads began last November and was completed last month, only opening for traffic on a trial basis after that. The Rs 268.2-crore road widening project on the 41-km-long Munnar-Bodimettu stretch began in 2017. Due to illegal mining, nearly one dozen major landslides have occurred on the gap-road stretch.
A report submitted by former Devikulam sub-collector S Premkrishnan to the Idukki District Collector stated that the unscientific road widening works had caused a series of landslides in the region. Another report by the former Devikulam sub-collector to the Revenue principal secretary last September had stated that road widening work on the gap-road stretch in Munnar could not be resumed in the present condition. The report also recommended an investigation into lapses on the part of the contractor and the national highway officials who undertook the 'unscientific road widening work that caused serial landslides' in the region.
A report submitted by former Idukki District Collector H Dineshan to the government had recommended the collection of a fine from the contractor who allegedly illegally mined rocks on the gap-road stretch. A report submitted to the district collector by the former Devikulam sub-collector stated that 2.5 lakh cubic feet of rock was illegally mined from the gap-road stretch under the guise of road widening works. The contractor should pay an amount of Rs 4.52 crore as fine for illegal mining on government land, S Premkrishnan stated in his report. The report was prepared after a joint survey by district geologists and Udumbanchola and Devikulam taluk surveyors.
Dineshan has rejected the recommendations put forth by the Devikulam sub-collector that the contractor should pay Rs 4.52 crore as fine for illegally mining 2.5 lakh cubic feet of rock from the gap-road stretch. The collector has submitted a new report to the government recommending the collecting of the market rate of rock as fine from the contractor who illegally mined rocks from the gap-road stretch of the Kochi-Dhanushkodi national highway. The fine amount is estimated to total to Rs 30 to 40 crore.