14 years later, approved Mughal Road tunnel frozen in time
Srinagar, Nov 15: Fourteen years after the government of India approved construction of a tunnel on the Mughal Road, the project is yet to see light of the day.
The project, approved in 2004, involved construction of seven-kilometre tunnel between Zaznar and Chathapani at 3,000 meter altitude on the 230-year-old highway.
However, the work on the project is yet to be started, resulting in closure of the 84-kilometer road for almost five months every year, affecting connectivity and businesses.
“The construction of the tunnel would have made the Mughal Road an all-weather road,” an official of the Roads and Development Department said.
“There has been undue delay in construction of the tunnel which would have enable round-the-year connectivity on historic Mughal Road.”
Mughal Road, which goes from Shopian in Kashmir to Rajouri and Poonch in Jammu, lies closed from November every year.
The recent snowfall and closure of Srinagar-Jammu National Highway has inflicted losses on fruit growers in Kashmir.
“Whenever there is any downpour the highway remains closed. Had the government constructed the tunnel on the Mughal Road, it would have saved us from losses,” Mehrajdin, a fruit grower from Shopian, said.
He said recently more than-5,000 truckloads of apples were stranded on Srinagar-Jammu national highway owing to snow. “Most of them could not reach destination in time and we suffered heavy losses,” he said.
Another fruit grower, Javeed Ahmad from Shopian said that the opening of the Mughal Road brought new opportunities for business and cultural exchange between the two regions. “But this road remains close during the winter months due to non-construction of the tunnel,” he added.
A source within the Roads and Buildings Department said that Union Minister for Road, Transport and Highways (MoRTH) Nitin Gadkari had earlier assured former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti that work on the tunnel would be started very soon.
In March last year, the National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), a company fully owned by the ministry had put on hold pre-construction project work after inviting proposals from eligible consultants for preparation of detailed project report and working out pre-construction activities for the tunnel.
Despite that, the source said, that no work has been started on the ground.
Officials from the Roads and Buildings Department said that NHIDCL authorities can make comments. However, NHIDCL could not be contacted for the comments.
In August, the then governor N. N. Vohra also expressed dismay over the dilapidated condition of the Mughal Road and directed to undertake a physical and financial audit to fix responsibility for the poor maintenance of this strategic road which provides alternate connectivity to Kashmir Valley with the rest of the country.