2-way traffic unlikely in near future – Flood Aftermath
Travelling on 300-kilometer Jammu-Srinagar highway has become a nightmarish experience as the condition of the artery road has gone from bad to worse due to recent floods and landslides.
The sinking of patches and huge landslides between Batote and Banihal have reduced the road to half at over a dozen places which cause jams and frequent traffic disruptions giving tough time to travellers.
Travellers said that affected patches at around three spots between Ramsu and Banihal, besides narrowing of road width due to landslides and cracks elsewhere, have made it impossible to restore two-way traffic on the highway in near future.
As per officials, the supplies to flood-hit Kashmir would remain affected till the worst hit section between Gangroo and Nalchallana is not restored for two-way traffic.
Officials said the condition of already dilapidated highway,
which remained closed for 13 days due to landslides and sinking of about three hundred meter stretch between Gangroo and Nachllana near Ramsu, has gone from bad to worse following the incessant rains.
They said that if immediate steps were not taken to improve the condition of the road, particularly in Batote – Banihal section, it would become very difficult to maintain smooth movement of traffic on the vital link to Kashmir.
“The situation is alarming as the poor condition of the road would badly affect the much needed supplies to the valley which is struggling to come out of the devastating state of affairs caused by the floods,” an official said.
He said the Batote – Banihal section was the most challenging part in the process of four-laning of the road as the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has yet to tender out the work for this portion. They said that the work on the Banihal – Qazigund tunnel has also been abandoned for the last seven months.
The officiating Commander of GREF, Surinder Kumar, told Greater Kashmir that entire hill top above about three km Nalchallana – Gungroo section has loosened and even slight rains can trigger landslides and block the stretch again which was opened after 13 days recently.
Officials said that work on the Banihal – Qazigund four-lane tunnel has also been abandoned for the last seven months.
Informed sources said that NHAI has shut its eyes towards the completion of the 8.45 KM four lane tunnel as the Andhra Pradesh-based executing agency, NAWYUGA Construction Company, has halted the work. They said that despite having set clear conditions in the tenders for completion of the project within certain timeline, the NHAI has failed to take the company to task for abandoning the work.
Sources further said that the company had stopped the work in Feb 2014 because it was facing severe financial crisis.
“The company has disbanded most of its employees , while retaining only a few from outside the state who are being only paid basic pay”, sources added.
Foundation stone for the four laning of Qazigund to Banihal section of National Highway-44 (earlier known as NH-1A) from 189.350 Km to 204.700 Km including 2-tunnels of 8.45 Km and 0.69 Km length was laid on July 25, 2011.
“In these conditions there are very hard days ahead for both the government and the people of Kashmir,” source said adding that immediate threat is of snapping of supplies to the flood-hit valley.