Asif Iqbal Naik
Basholi-Bani-Bhaderwah road traverses a large number of scenic beauty, tourist spots and villages like Basholi, Jandrota, Sital Nagar, Kardoh, Bani, Khadwa, Sarthal in Kathua District and Bashti, Nalthi, Sungli, Puneja, Naggar and Chinote in Bhaderwah subdivision in Doda district. There are a number of pilgrimage and tourist destination on this route. Important among them are Kailash temple and Chandi Mata Temple. Important tourist destinations are Chandi Mata Temple, Sarthal, Chatragali and Gulidanda. Seven falls near Lowang is yet another tourist attraction.
Total population presently along this road is around 55 thousands. More than one lakh people will be benefitted by the construction of this road. Presently there is hardly any industry in this belt, except very meager amount of cultivation of Rajma, Wheat, Corn, and Apple. Some flowers like Marigold are also grown for commercial purpose. With this, sustenance of this population is not possible unless and until something is done by state Government.
Taking a conservative estimate, half of the traffic coming from Pathankot and going to Srinagar will move through this road, once this road is completed, since this road will be shorter by about 120 Kilometres than the existing Jammu-Srinagar road. About 400 to 500 vehicles will expected to ply on this road daily. This would give opportunity to the local people to start their own road side hotels, Dhabas, Restaurants, tea shops and various other businesses. Apart from this tourism industry will get an impetus due to construction of this road. The proposed road alignment passes through the scenic beauty of Chatragala, Sarthal and Bani. The spell-bound beauty of this area falling within the territorial jurisdiction of Doda and Kathua districts would throw an alternative to Kullu-Manali and Simla as a tourist destination.
A tunnel to cross the cold, mighty and windy Chatragali pass is already in pipe-line which will further reduce the length of this road by about 20-25 Km. Although this project is in a very nascent and inception stage, but preliminary survey suggest that tunnel will be between Sarthal and Nalthi villages with an approximate length of 6-8 KM and required an approximately Rs. 1000-1200 Cr for construction.
The construction work on Bani, Basoli and Bhaderwah road was started by State PWD during 1964. But the construction work could not progress due to one or the other reasons.
Considering the capability of GREF for executing the works in such hostile and inhospitable terrain condition, the road was handed over to GREF in 1986 for speedy construction. Even after facing a lot of challenges, the 165.80 Km length road was finally completed by GREF as single lane un-surfaced specification during 1993 and opened for traffic.
During 1998, Government felt that the existing single lane road is not sufficient for safe movement of vehicle hence it was decided to widen this road to NHDL specification, as the road serves the purpose of an alternate route to Pathankot also.
Accordingly double laning work was started by GREF in 2003 by 114 RCC (GREF) under Project Beacon. However during beginning of 2007 GoI decided to handover the Bani – Chatragala – Bhaderwah road to state PWD(R&B) department, but state PWB(R&B) did not take over the road till the end of 2009. Hence no work could be taken up by GREF in this period of 3 years. There after work was again started by GREF (114 RCC under Project Beacon) in full swing.
Presently work is in full swing since 2010. And new machinery has been deployed by GREF in recent times to further expedite the progress of the work.