GANGTOK: An alternative double-lane highway via Chalsa in West Bengal to Menla, near Nathu La, has been approved by the Centre. The cost of construction for the 176-km stretch will be around Rs 400 crore. The West Bengal forest department has been asked to give clearance soon so that the project starts in 2009-10 and ends by 2011-12. The road is very important for defence movement up to the Indo-China border. It will also benefit the full-fledged Indo-China border trade via Nathu La which is expected to start by 2013-14.
The new road would be in addition to the existing one of Chalsa to Jaldhaka-Thode-Rachela-Aritar-Rhenock-Rorathang-Rangpo-Singtam to Ranipool to connect the existing NH 31A. NH 31A, from Sevoke to Gangtok BRO, spotted 79 points which were mostly vulnerable landslide zones. Out of that, 59 have been sanctioned and work will start by April. Completion is due by October, said Brigadier RK Patyal, chief engineer, BRO Project Swastik. For this Rs 47 crore has been sanctioned. Brig Patyal added that most of the hydropower developers in Sikkim and West Bengal, including NHPC, Gati Infrastructure, Teesta Urja, have agreed to bear the cost for strengthening roads and bridges on their route to Siliguri.