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Shiradi Ghat road back to its bad ways

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IN BAD CONDITION: It has become almost impossible to drive on the stretch between Sakleshpur and Gundiya Road on National Highway 48.
IN BAD CONDITION: It has become almost impossible to drive on the stretch between Sakleshpur and Gundiya Road on National Highway 48.

Shama Sunder

With large number of potholes emerging, the 40-km stretch has deteriorated again

HASSAN: Shiradi Ghat on National Highway 48 between Sakleshpur and Gundiya Road connecting Bangalore and Mangalore was once a feast for the eyes as the 40-km stretch between Sakleshpur and Gundiya Road passed through picturesque Western Ghats.

People on their way to Dharmasthala, Mangalore, Kukke Subramanya and the Gundiya project site where a hydro power project is coming up, should pass through this road. The 40-km stretch between Sakleshpur and Gundiya Road (after the Marnahalli police outpost) has deteriorated. It takes a minimum of two-and-a-half hours to cover the distance.

In 2004, this stretch was repaired at a cost of Rs. 242 lakh. Again in 2008, it was repaired at a cost of Rs. 33.09 crore and a cement concrete road was laid at all the 13 “U” turns. However, within one month of its opening for traffic, the road returned to its original form and was full of potholes. The cement concrete layer simply came out. The Karnataka High Court, in a public interest litigation petition, ordered a CBI inquiry.

Shiradi Ghat connects southern Karnataka with northern Karnataka. Most of the Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation buses between Bangalore and Mangalore are diverted through Belur and Charmudi Ghat (bypassing Shiradi Ghat). But Charmudi Ghat is narrow and an expert driver alone can negotiate the deep curves.

Tourists on their way to Dharmasthala from northern Karnataka (via Chikmagalur and Charmudi Ghat) visit Kukke Subramanya and the important tourist centres of Hassan district Belur, Halebeedu and Shravanabelagola before returning to their places.

Now tourists have stopped visiting Hassan district and as a result, there is a marked reduction in their numbers. Business in hotels has also dipped.

Heavy tankers carrying gas from Mangalore to Bangalore have to pass through Shiradi Ghat. Every day there is traffic hold-ups for more than six hours as these heavy vehicles break down and get stranded in the middle of the road.

In the rainy season, this problem is compounded as the area witnesses landslides.

According to traffic census conducted by the Public Works Department in 2002, every day 13,502 vehicles passed through this road. In 2003, it was 14,163, and in 2008, the number rose to 21,153 vehicles.

As per a norm, any national highway carrying 7,000 vehicles every day should be converted into a four-lane road. The only remedy is to lay the road scientifically and as per international standards.

Now, a consolation to the commuters is that Railways have introduced a Bangalore-Mangalore overnight train.

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