Rain snaps link to Attappady

Kerala’s tribal heartland Attappady remains almost isolated since Wednesday morning with landslips and flooding severely damaging the Mannarkkad-Coimbatore State Highway, a crucial ghat section of the region’s lifeline.

Major landslips occurred close to the 10th hairpin bend in the ghat section close to Mukkali, near the Silent Valley National Park, around 10 a.m., forcing the district authorities to clamp a ban on vehicular movement in the route till the situation improves. According to PWD officials, more landslips are possible in the ghat section in the coming days with heavy rain lashing the Silent Valley and surrounding areas.

Though the local community was raising safety concerns over the poorly maintained ghat road for the last one year, no rectifying measures have been taken. Two transport buses filled with passengers had a narrow escape in the morning when landslips occurred.

Worse situation

Flooding and uprooting of trees had occurred in different parts of the route, making the situation further worse. The bad state of the road is also deterring ecotourism enthusiasts from reaching the Silent Valley National Park, famous for the rare lion tailed maquaue.

Even during last monsoon, Attappady remained cut off from the rest of the State for about two months after the roads were damaged in floods.

Several instances of landslips and flooding were reported since then and the road continued to remain in disrepair.

“It was the lackadaisical attitude of the Public Works Department that resulted in the present situation. Though experts have warned that the ghat road is prone to landslips and flooding during monsoon, no effort has been taken by the department for its complete reconstruction. As the road is damaged in rain, the people of Attapapdy have no option but to travel via Coimbatore to reach Palakkad,” said Basheer Madala, an Agali-based social activist.

Though Rs. 80 crore has been earmarked in the State Budget for reconstructing the stretch, the PWD is yet to prepare an estimate for the work. According to officials, it would take at least three more months to prepare the estimate and submit it for the approval of the Cabinet. The distance from Attappady to Palakkad via Coimbatore is about 150 km.

Big issue

“As far as the tribal regions of Attappady are concerned, connectivity is the biggest issue. If this is the condition of the major road of Attappady, nothing needs to be said about connectivity in the region’s interiors,” said tribal leader K.A. Ramu.

“Connecting Mannarkkad with Coimbatore and Ooty, the road is the only link for the aboriginal community of Attappady to the outer world. The PWD did only minimum work last year and the stretch from Mannarkkad to Mukkali in the Silent Valley remained in bad shape,” Rajendraprasad of tribal voluntary organisation Thambu says.

Though the PWD had promised an alternative road without hairpin bends, no follow-up action has been taken to realise the project.

The proposed road will reduce the distance between Attappady and the district headquarters by about 30 km.

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