Strategic Significance

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An allocation of Rs. 224.44 crore has been sanctioned for the construction of the Shopian Bypass on National Highway-444, transforming it into a two-lane configuration with a paved shoulder. This development, spanning 8.925 km in Shopian district, will be executed using the EPC Mode. While making the announcement, Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways Nitin Gadkari said linking Shopian district with Pulwama on one side and Kulgam on the other within the UT of Jammu & Kashmir, the project holds strategic significance. It is poised to significantly benefit apple growers in south Kashmir, particularly in Shopian district, known as the “apple bowl of the valley,” by facilitating swift transportation of produce to markets. The overall impact includes improved connectivity and heightened road safety measures. Renowned for their exquisite flavor and unparalleled quality, Kashmiri apples have carved a niche for themselves in the global market. Pertinently, Kashmir provides the perfect environment for apple cultivation, resulting in fruits of exceptional quality and flavor. The apple orchards of Kashmir not only contribute significantly to the region’s economy but also serve as a symbol of its rich cultural heritage and traditions. The sanctioning of funds for the construction of the Shopian Bypass heralds new opportunities for apple growers in the region. By transforming the National Highway-444 into a two-lane configuration with a paved shoulder, the project aims to enhance connectivity and streamline transportation networks, particularly in South Kashmir’s Shopian district. This strategic initiative holds immense significance for the apple industry, as it promises to expedite the movement of produce from orchards to markets, ensuring freshness and quality while minimizing transit time. For apple growers in Shopian district, the bypass project represents a lifeline that is bound to revolutionize their livelihoods. Kashmir valley holds a prominent position in apple cultivation within India, accounting for 78 percent of the country’s annual output, which typically ranges between 25 to 26 lakh metric tonnes (MT). The apple industry serves as a significant source of employment in Kashmir, generating 400 man-days of work per year per hectare of orchards. It engages approximately 3.5 million individuals and contributes around 10 percent to the region’s Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP). According to data from the Directorate of Horticulture J&K, the total apple production in Kashmir for the years 2020-2021 amounted to 1695000.00 metric tonnes, while in Jammu Division, it stood at 24415.69 metric tonnes. Consequently, the entire Union Territory (UT) of Jammu and Kashmir collectively produces 1719415.69 metric tonnes of apples, with the Kashmir Valley serving as the primary contributor. Notably, the Kashmir Valley alone exports approximately 18 lakh metric tonnes of apples annually, representing 75 percent of India’s total apple production. By providing swift and seamless access to markets, the bypass will enable growers to capitalize on favorable market conditions and further maximize their returns. Additionally, improved connectivity will open up new avenues for trade and collaboration, empowering growers to expand their reach and tap into untapped markets both domestically and internationally.