Human-animal conflict

Risky:The constant presence of a herd of elephants along the Coonoor-Mettupalayam National Highway has become a serious source of concern to motorists and forest officials.

From THE HINDU

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Mettupalayam-Coonoor stretch of highway to be opened tomorrow

Udhagamandalam: As part of ongoing efforts to restore normality as early as possible in this landslip-hit hill station, the government has decided to throw open the main Mettupalayam-Coonoor section of the National Highway for one-way traffic from Friday, according to Khadi Board Minister K. Ramachandran.

Speaking to reporters here on Wednesday, he said the road was closed for over two months owing to several landslips triggered by heavy rain. Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi had directed all concerned to take restoration steps on a war footing. The damage was set right in two months as against the expected six months.

Since some of the concrete replacements on bridges needed some more time to become firm, it had been decided to allow only ascending traffic for the time being. In about a week, two-way traffic would be allowed.

About ten days ago, the Ooty-Coonoor section was thrown open for two-way traffic.

Replying to a question, Mr. Ramachandran expressed the hope that the damage on the Coonoor-Metupalayam section during the recent floods would not recur as steps had been taken to prevent blockage of stormwater outlets.

From THE HINDU

Train services resume on Ooty-Coonoor section

Efforts on to get Mettupalayam-Coonoor stretch ready by May 15

The total restoration cost is expected to work out to Rs.15 crore

BACK ON TRACK: Southern Railway General Manager Deepak Krishan signalling the resumption of train services in Coonoor on Tuesday. — Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy

Two steam engines costing Rs.6 crore each will be manufactured at Golden Rock Workshop

Udhagamandalam: The Ooty-Coonoor section of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR) was thrown open for train services on Tuesday.

Services on the section and between Coonoor and Mettupalayam were cancelled two months ago after landslips, triggered by heavy rain, damaged the track.

With temporary restoration works having been completed, the first train was flagged off at Coonoor by General Manager, Southern Railway, Deepak Krishan.

Earlier speaking to presspersons, Mr. Krishan said that without disturbing the services permanent repair works would be carried out on the section.

Stating that there would be four pairs of services, he said that on Mondays there would be only two pairs to facilitate maintenance of track and rolling stock.

He said that while repairing a badly damaged bridge near Aruvankadu the engineers had taken precautionary measures to ensure that the spot would not suffer major damage even in very heavy rain.

Mr. Krishan said that efforts were on to get the Mettupalayam-Coonoor section ready by May 15. He pointed out that the damage was more on that section. The total restoration cost was expected to work out to Rs.15 crore.

Asked about the proposal to provide new steam engines for the NMR, he said the possibility of floating global tenders was explored. However, since the cost of each engine was expected to work out to Rs. 20 crore, it was decided to manufacture them at the Golden Rock Workshop at Trichy.

To begin with, two steam engines costing Rs.6 crore each would be manufactured. They would be ready in two years. Later, two more engines would be added.

Asked whether the NMR could be delinked from Southern Railway and made an autonomous body, Mr. Krishan opined that its maintenance and operation should continue to be the concern of Southern Railway. However, the possibility of involving the private sector in some of the commercial activities associated with the NMR could be considered.

Due importance was being given to the heritage status of the NMR.

Asked whether any of the closed stations would be re-opened, he said that it would be examined. Automatic ticket vending machines would be introduced in the NMR as early as possible.

From THE HINDU

Ooty: Campaign to check environmental degradation in the Nilgiris

Students from schools in and around Kotagiri participate

Udhagamandalam: A signature campaign to enhance awareness about the growing threat to the environment of the Nilgiris was organized under the aegis of the recently- formed Nilgiris Environmental Joint Forum at Kotagiri on Thursday.

Eco-friendly move: Students participating in an environmental awareness signature campaign at Kotagiri on Thursday.

Among those who participated were a large number of students from many schools in and around Kotagiri.

Addressing the gathering, green activist Jeevanandham of Pasumai Iyakkam said that places in the plains like Erode depended on Western Ghats for water and exhorted the people residing in the hills to protect it at all costs.

The Coordinator of the campaign Advocate K.Vijayan said that short-sighted actions of the authorities and the people of the district over the years have led to the present sorry state of affairs. He said that the trend has to be reversed.

Advocate Bhojan said that legal remedies can be sought for the environmental problems plaguing the district.

Social activist Vinodh Don Bosco said that the unprecedented happenings of last month relating to floods and landslides had brought together concerned citizens and organizations.

He added that the campaign would be extended to Coonoor and Udhagamandalam.

Stating that the people are now aware of the consequences of lop-sided development and violation of nature’s laws, he said that the Forum will take the lead in checking activities that violate the ethos of the hills.

Environmental degradation here will have drastic impact not only in the district but also in many other parts of the State.

From THE HINDU

Tourism: Ooty-Coonoor train services likely to be resumed by January-end

Southern Railway braving odds to restore NMR line; donkeys pressed into service to transport stones

Udhagamandalam: The Southern Railway authorities are braving a variety of odds to ‘re-rail’ the Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR) which had been ‘de-railed’ by the large number of landslides which occurred on the line during last month’s heavy rain.

Treacherous path: Donkeys transporting stones to a badly-damaged part of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, near Aruvankadu.

Since the normal functioning of the NMR (a major tourist attraction) usually went a long way in reassuring visitors that all was well on the tourism front in this vacation destination, the railway authorities are working overtime to resume services at least on the Ooty-Coonoor stretch. Even donkeys have been pressed into service to transport stones to a badly damaged part of the line near Aruvankadu.

Railway sources told The Hindu here on Tuesday that a few days ago a diesel engine had been taken on a trial run from Coonoor to the damaged spot. It was to ensure that the track was fit to transport men and materials, including 60 feet long girders to the breach spot. Simultaneously a trolley run had been carried out between Ooty and the breach spot.

The slopes were being strengthened.

To a query, they said that by January-end services between Ooty and Coonoor would be resumed.

Compared to the Ooty-Coonoor section the job of clearing the Coonoor-Mettupalayam section was much harder because huge boulders were lying on the track.

For the past two days efforts were being made to break a boulder weighing about 400 tonnes near Kallar.

Meanwhile, with less then three months to go for the 2009 Summer tourist season in this disaster-hit vacation destination various sections of society particularly those dependent on tourism for a livelihood are wondering what was in store.

They are keeping their fingers crossed hoping that restoration works along the NMR and the national highway would be completed soon and total normalcy restored.

D. Radhakrishnan From THE HINDU

Ooty-Coonoor Road thrown open to light vehicles

‘Restoration works on a war footing’

Udhagamandalam: The Ooty-Coonoor stretch of the landslide-hit Mettupalayam-Ooty National Highway was thrown open to light vehicle traffic on Friday.

The first vehicle was flagged off at the Lovedale junction by the Khadi Board Minister, K.Ramachandran in the presence of the Nilgiris Collector Anandrao V.Patil and the Team Leader, National Highways, Haridass Naidu.

Later, Mr.Ramachandran told presspersons that restoration works in various flood- and landslide-hit areas had been taken up on a war footing.

Pointing out that various sections of the national and state highways were being thrown open in a systematic manner for the convenience of the travelling public, the Minister said that descending light vehicles would be allowed on the Ooty-Coonoor stretch.

Vehicles coming towards Ooty from Coonoor would continue to be diverted via Old Aruvankadu, Achanakkal and Lovedale.

Adverting to the construction of temporary shelters at Ketti for the affected families, Mr. Ramachandran said that the work would be completed by December 12.

From THE HINDU

Ooty: Inclement weather impedes restoration works in district

Ooty-Coonoor stretch may be opened for light vehicles soon

Hostile conditions: Bad weather affected restoration works at landslide-hit Manthada, near Udhagamandalam, on Wednesday.– Photo: M. Sathyamoorthy

Udhagamandalam: The landslide hit Ooty-Coonoor stretch of the national highway will be thrown open to light vehicles on Thursday provided the conditions were conducive, Nilgiris Collector Anandrao V. Patil told The Hindu here on Wednesday.

Initially only descending traffic would be allowed to use the road where temporary repairs had been carried out by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), he added.

The administration had accorded high priority to opening the stretch owing to the difficulties faced by the commuters, he said and added that the Katteri-Coonoor section of the national highway was thrown open to bus traffic on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, bad weather hampered restoration works in many parts of the district. Owing to thick mist, visibility was reduced to just a few metres. After a short respite, wet weather had again become a source of concern in this hill station.

From THE HINDU