Following a long wait, a single lane at the Malshej ghat was opened for vehicular traffic around 10 am yesterday. The route was closed due to a major landslide on July 25 following heavy rains. As a result, a surge in visitors is expected – a favourite tourist destination for visitors from Mumbai, Pune and Nashik – this weekend. However, the second lane on the road will remain closed for the next few days. Clearing the debris there will take more time, and police as well as highway authorities fear that road closure due to work on consecutive weekends will lead to public outrage.
Moreover, highway authorities are facing hurdles in road clearance work due to incessant rains and fog. For almost seven days, vehicles going towards Nashik were being diverted on the Kasara route, while those headed towards Pune were asked to take the course from Karjat. Highway police said that about 500 vehicles pass through the ghat section every day on weekends. They have to pay a toll on the thoroughfare, and due to road blockage fuel consumption also increases. So, opening up one of the lanes to traffic was important, as it will be convenient for tourists too.
Assistant police inspector Uttam Chakre of Malshej Traffic Assistance Point (TAP) said, “We had deployed high-end equipment including three JCBs, drilling and blasting machines to clear the debris on the road due to landslide. It took us a week to clear one side of the road. Because of continuous rains and fog we had to stop work many times.” “We have also deployed an officer along with other constables and personnel from the local police station to avert any untoward incident by unruly tourists,” Chakre said.
Representatives of National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) said they are trying their best to open both lanes of the road to traffic. “Two engineers and additional staff have been posted in the day in the ghat area,” one of them said.
Did you know?
Malshej ghat has the dubious distinction of being a graveyard for small birds during the onset of the monsoons. Most of the birds nest among the cliffs of the Western Ghats. In this season, strong gusts of wind, heavy rain and dense fog often result in the birds getting disoriented. As many of the birds gravitate to the bright lights of the passing vehicles, the birds hit the cliff faces often leading to their deaths. However this phenomenon has decreased in the recent years according to local naturalists.