KL NEWS SERVICE
Union government has agreed to the state proposal for having a tunnel to connect the Chenab Valley with Srinagar and is exploring the possibility of funding it through Japan International Corporation Agency. The tunnel between Vailoo (Kokernag) and Singapore (Kishtwar) would reduce the distance from 15 kms to 5.50 kms and make the Kokernag-Kishtwar road accessible throughout the year.
The state government informed the state legislature last week that the union Road Transport and Highway Ministry has sent the proposal on July 31, 2005 to the union Ministry of Finance for managing its funding.
The tunnel project that earlier IL&FS wanted to set up before Ghulam Nabi Azad government abandoned the idea could help Chenab valley manage its connectivity, at a time when most of the road is in shambles.
Khanabal-Kishtwar road is part of the 265.80 kms long Khanabal-Batote road which is already a declared “national highway” – NHAIB. The road, usually in use for most of the summer, was being set up by the Border Roads Organisation for a few decades now but was always facing problems. The delay in its implementation led the state government to get 193 kms length of the road between Batote to Sinthan back and hand over to the Public Works Department on December 29, 2014.
By January 2015, the PWD has only taken over 184 kms of the road from GREF (BRO) as the remaining is still with the BRO.
By the time it was taken back from the BRO, the road has been in a crisis as the floods and rains triggered massive landslides as a result of which connectivity between Chenab Valley and Batote remained snapped for long durations, this summer. PWD lacks enough of men and machinery to manage the road even though Chief Minister during his visit to the Valley in May asked the concerned to improve the road. At least 40 spots on the road were impassable and so far only 11 spots have been improved.
Responding to an intense debate, R&B Minister Altaf Bukhari told the state assembly recently that while he would be sending a delegation of engineers to visit the road and suggest ensures, he was clear on one thing: state government lacks enough of resources to manage the road. Under the new highway norms, he said the road has to be re-laid on a different alignment and it would require a lot of resources.
Improvement and maintenance of the road, in the meanwhile, was entrusted to National Highway Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd on April 1, 2015. PWD has billed the NHIDCL for an amount of Rs 6.07 Crore but the funds have not been released so far.
While the PWD has restored the highway, it has created nine DPRs for improving and upgrading various stretches of the highway. These works cost about Rs 161.70 Crore and have been submitted to the NHIDCL. The Union ministry has, on the recommendation of the state government, agreed to the idea of alternate alignment from Chenaini to Khellani via Sudhmahadev for which NHIDCL is following up. Till the new set up sets in, the state government has proposed its return to BRO so that the road remains accessible and open.
Even on the alternate highway part of which is expected to be around 82.50 kms, there is a plan for having a tunnel at Dudera. The National Highway authority of India has already issued expressions of interest for the feasibility study and preparations for a DPR. The status of this study is not known, so far.