Shiradi Ghat road, a crucial link to coastal districts, is in ruins
If you are travelling by car from Bangalore to Mangalore, you can reach Sakleshpur, 242 km away, in just about three-and-a-half hours. However, from Sakleshpur it will take more than an hour to reach Gundya, a distance of about 38 km, at the foot of the Western Ghats.
Such is the condition of the Shiradi Ghat stretch of National Highway 48, a crucial link to the coastal districts. The ghat road, which saw a facelift about eight months ago, is in ruins again, a testimony to the quality of work.
According to sources in the Public Works Department (PWD), traffic density on this stretch is between 18,000 and 20,000 passenger car unit (PCU) a day and the traffic volume has almost stabilised over the past one year. As iron ore mining has resumed in Bellary district, this pattern might change with the movement of ore-laden lorries, sources said.
Various associations have expressed their anxiety over the condition of the road. K. Rahdakrishna Holla, general secretary, Bangalore Tourist Taxi Owners Association, told The Hindu that the government apathy in maintaining this crucial link was deplorable.
Shiradi Ghat is a major link to various commercial and religious centres in coastal Karnataka, including Mangalore, Dharmasthala, Kukke Subrahmanya and Udupi. More than 1,000 cabs and taxis ply between the hinterlands and the coastal districts every day and the plight of drivers and passengers cannot be explained, Mr. Holla said.
Hanumanthe Gowda, a lorry driver who makes at least 10 trips on this stretch between Hassan and Mangalore a month, said even drivers of heavy vehicles like his find it challenging to negotiate the stretch. Broken axles and suspension system have been the common complaints from drivers and owners of heavy vehicles even as toppling of lorries was a regular phenomenon, he said.
The bitumen surface on the ghat stretch has almost worn out and craters have surfaced on the road, M. Madhushankar, who regularly commutes between Bangalore and Kundapur, said.
Authorities of the National Highways Division of the PWD, which maintains this stretch of NH 48, promise some relief soon.
Chief Engineer of the division K. Jayaprakash told The Hindu that by December 20, all potholes on the stretch would be filled.
A proposal had been sent to the Ministry of Road Transport and National Highways, Government of India, to execute periodical renewal of the road for a distance of about 37 km. This involves laying of 25 mm semi-dense bitumen concrete on the existing road surface, which does not involve any strengthening of the foundation.
The division had set the deadline of March 2013 to complete the renewal work at a cost of about Rs. 21 crore, Mr. Jayaprakash said. He noted that as the National Highways Authority of India had proposed to take over the road stretch between Sakleshpur and Mangalore in about a year, the State PWD had not planned any permanent project.