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Sunday 18 August 2013

A drive through Shiradi Ghat during monsoon

NH-48 (New No. NH-75) – through Western Ghats, Karnataka

Shiradi Ghat is a 35kms stretch of ghat section on the NH-48 highway (New number: NH 75) through the Western Ghats connecting Mangalore and Bangalore, the state capital of Karnataka. This section of the highway has refreshing scenic views to offer during monsoon, while passing through an extremely pathetic “highway”. Went through this stretch just a couple of days ago, on my way towards Mangalore from Bangalore.

A KSRTC Volvo in the Shiradi Ghat National Highway
A KSRTC Volvo in the Shiradi Ghat National Highway

The Western Ghats constitute a mountain range along the western side of India. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site[1][4] and is one of the eight "hottest hotspots" of biological diversity in the world.

The ghat section of Western ghats through which NH-48 (New number: NH 75) passes is called Shiradi Ghat (Not to be confused with the famous "Shirdi", known for Shirdi Sai Baba, in Maharashtra), after a village called Shiradi in Puttur taluk of Dakshina Kannada district, just near Gundya at the border of Dakshina Kannada and Hassan districts of Karnataka.

Year after year, crores of rupees are spent for a thin coat of tar that wears of very easily with the force of nature. Also, thanks to the heavy vehicles like tankers that erode the road, further damaging the highway.

(Please Note: This Post was originally published on : Sunday, 18 August 2013. Here are the recent updates on current status of Shiradi Ghat road. The rest of this post (apart from this Updates section) only illustrates this road during the time of its initial publication on 18 August 2013.)

Recent Update: 02 August 2018 — Shiradi Ghat highway is now open for all vehicles, including heavy vehicles, From today, 02 August 2018, as most of the pending works on the 12.4km concrete road stretch from Addaholey to Kempuholey, are completed. Two-wheelers, four-wheelers and tempo travellers were allowed on the stretch since its inauguration on July 15 [7].

Update: 22 March 2018 — Shiradi Ghat highway was closed for highway improvement works on 20 January 2018 [6], and it is currently closed. Alternate routes are either via Charmadi ghat road or Sampaje ghat road.

Update: 17 August 2016 — We travelled along this highway some days ago, on 13th. Quite long stretch of this highway is now laid in concrete, so travel along the concrete portions is very good. Some more portions which are still laid in tar and gravel, are filled with potholes.

Last year in 2015 this Shiradi Ghat highway was closed more than six months beginning from January for repairs during which most of the concrete work was done. The remaining portions will be asphalted and concrete will be laid during the next phase of repairs [5]

As this is the nearest, widest road to Mangalore, or Coastal Karnataka from Bangalore, or the eastern side, a lot of traffic hits this highway. On my travel to Mangalore, from Bangalore last week, the stretch from Nelamangala to Hassan delighted me with the extremely smooth four lane roads (with tolls, of course), that make you wear your racing cap and cruise easily between 110 to 140 kms/hr. By the time you reach near Sakaleshpur, my instincts began cautioning that something won’t be so nice next.

Potholes on the Shiradi Ghat National Highway NH-48 (New No.: NH-75) through Western Ghats, Karnataka
Potholes on the Shiradi Ghat National Highway NH-48 (New No.: NH-75) through Western Ghats, Karnataka Potholes on the Shiradi Ghat National Highway NH-48 (New No.: NH-75) through Western Ghats, Karnataka
Potholes on the Shiradi Ghat National Highway NH-48 (New No.: NH-75)

My guess became a reality as we began moving down the Shiradi ghats which welcomed us with huge potholes and eroded asphalt, frustrating us while the car started to hop up and down. The potholes, full of muddy water in monsoon make it difficult to predict the depth, resulting in damages to the vehicle. The road condition worsens every monsoon as Shiradi ghat is located in one of India's high rain falling regions.

Tankers and heavy vehicles in the Shiradi Ghat National Highway NH-48 (New No.: NH-75) through Western Ghats, Karnataka Shiradi Ghat National Highway NH-48 (New No.: NH-75)
Tankers and heavy vehicles in the Shiradi Ghat National Highway NH-48 (New No.: NH-75)

Adding to the misery, the road can hardly be seen when it rains heavily. Tankers, trucks and buses master the road and do not care while splashing the muddy water right on to your windshields. The trucks do not even keep left and follow their lane; sometimes appear right opposite to you, if their side of the road isn’t as good as yours. It will easily take you 2 to 3 hours to travel just 35 kms of the ghat section. The government had plans of tunneling through the Ghat that would reduce the distance between Sakleshpur and Gundia (also written as "Gundya") to 18 km from the present 26 km [2][3].

Some visitors (not the drivers, of course), still have fun stopping their vehicles at several places in the ghat section that offer excellent views of the valley. One can also see the railway bridge, a broken man bridge and the gushing Gundya river that does catch your attention.

All in all, Shiradi ghat has lots to offer for nature lovers and much more to bother you otherwise. Do not plan for a road trip on a bike or any two wheelers anytime soon due to the heavy rains and bad road. Make sure your spare tyre is ready if you plan to take a four wheeler. People travelling in buses, especially the air-suspensioned Volvos or Multi axeled transport may not actually feel that much of torment. We didn’t see patch works being done anywhere in the ghat section and don’t see it happening any time soon.

External References:
[1] UN designates Western Ghats as world heritage site - Times of India. Retrieved 2 July 2012.
[2] Decision on Shiradi Ghat tunnel soon - The Hindu. Retrieved July 24, 2013
[3] Govt plans tunnels to decongest Shiradi Ghat - Deccan Herald. Retrieved July 20, 2013
[4] Western Ghats on UNESCO World Heritage Sites List
[5] KSRTC Sees Red Over Shiradi Ghat Closure - The New Indian Express (Updated: 16th January 2016, Retrieved: 17th August, 2016)
[6] Shiradi Ghat to remain closed as road improvement works will start today - The Hindu. (Updated: 20 January 2018, Retrieved 22 March, 2018)
[7] Shiradi Ghats opens for heavy vehicles today - Times of India (Updated: August 2, 2018, 04:01 IST)

Related Articles on External Sites:
[1] Shiradi Ghat: It's the same story every year - Times of India
[2] Travelling on Shiradi Ghat stretch is a nightmare - The Hindu
[3] Centre okays Shiradi tunnel project study - The New Indian Express. Retrieved 31st August, 2013
[4] Government gives more promises on repairing Shiradi Ghat road - The Times of India. Retrieved 31st August, 2013
[5] Feasibility study approved for tunnel bypass road in Shiradi Ghat - The Hindu. Retrieved 31st August, 2013

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