Maneybhanjyang Sandakphu Phalut road foundation stone laid

GTA chief executive Bimal Gurung laid foundation stone for Maneybhanjyang Sandakphu Phalut road
GTA chief executive Bimal Gurung on Wednesday laid the foundation stone for improving and strengthening the Maneybhanjyang-Sandakphu-Phalut road that borders Nepal.

The initiative to refurbish the road is part of the GTA’s endeavour to develop Maneybhanjyang into a tourist hub. Maneybhanjyang is a settlement from where the two popular trekking destinations of Sandakphu and Phalut start.

Nestled amid green hills and forests 26km away from Darjeeling town, Maneybhanjyang under the Bijanbari block is an isolated place, but an integral part of the region’s tourism and is famous for its British-era Land Rovers. At present, the 52km road from Manybhanjyang to Phalut is very rough and only the Land Rovers and other 4x4 vehicles are able to negotiate it.

Gurung presided over a ‘bhoomi puja’ this morning before laying the foundation stone for the Rs38 crore project to be funded through the central government’s Rural Infrastructural Development Fund.

“Maneybhanjyang has been neglected for a long time,” said the GTA chief executive. “The previous regime did nothing to improve the condition of this place. Now, the GTA will develop it to attract more tourists and boost the local economy. We will first improve the road and other projects will follow suit.”

The total distance from Maneybhanjyang to Phalut is 52 km, but the GTA will work only on 47km of the road, because the state PWD department is already working on the 5km stretch from Tongling to Gairibas, explained GTA tourism department executive director Sonam Bhutia.

The Maneybhanjyang-Phalut road comes under the Singalila National Park, a restricted zone, and construction without obtaining permission from the forest department is strictly prohibited. Bhutia said, “The forest department had placed some conditions to which we agreed to abide by and work without disturbing the delicate eco-system of the area. They are against the use of bitumen and widening of the road, but we will just concretise the existing road to strengthen it.”

Normally, the tourist flow to Sandakphu and Phalut starts from March up to April end. The next season starts in October and continues till February. The area experiences snowfall from December to February and remains out of bounds for tourists and vehicles from July to September to ensure wildlife do not get disturbed during the mating season.

Land Rover owners and drivers, who ferry tourists on the Manybhanjyang-Phalut road for a living, welcomed the GTA’s initiative saying it would give the area a much needed boost. “Once the road gets improved, more tourists will start coming to this area. This will be good not only for us but for the locals,” observed Anil Tamang, coordinator of the Singalila Land Rover Association comprising more than 45 members.

The 6km road from Sukhay Pokhari to Maneybhanjyang will also be repaired once the GTA floats public tenders, said a GTA source. (EOIC)

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