Highway shuts 29 days since season’s first snowfall
The Srinagar-Jammu highway remained closed for 66 days last year following landslides and shooting stones while from November 7 onward, it has remained blocked for 29 days.
A senior official at the Traffic department told Rising Kashmir that from January 1 to December 31, 2019, the Srinagar-Jammu highway remained closed for more than 66 days.
The landslides and shooting stones are the main cause behind the closure of highway, the official said.
“From the season’s first snowfall on November 7 last year, the highway has been closed for more than 29 days, leaving thousands of vehicles stranded on the road,” he said.
The official said Digdole, Monkey Mode, Maroog, Panthiyal, Nashri, Anokhifall, Battery Chesma, Nehari, and Mompassi are the worst landslide-prone areas where the highway remained blocked during most of the days.
“The stretch between Katra and Banihal has been the main problem. At a number of locations, it’s just a little better than a patchwork of mud and rocks,” the official said.
Even though the four-laning of the highway has been completed from Jammu to Udhampur and the work is moving further forward from that side of the highway, the work from Kashmir side is still going on at a snail’s pace.
The construction of the new Banihal-Qazigund tunnel is unlikely to be completed this year.
The project was started in 2011 to avoid frequent closure of the Jawahar Tunnel but the major part of the project is yet to take off.
In 2011, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) was commissioned to construct two tunnels - Chenani-Nashri and Qazigund-Banihal to reduce the travel and make the highway motorable for all seasons.
In 2017, the Prime Minister inaugurated 9 km Chenani-Nashri tunnel built at the cost of Rs 2500 crore but the 8.5 km Qazigund-Banihal tunnel is yet to see any progress.
The highway blockade often halts the supply of essential commodities resulting in severe shortage of vegetables, fruits, mutton, petrol, and LPG among other things.
According to Government of India, the four-lanning of Srinagar-Banihal, sanctioned in 2011, has been delayed by 44 months.
Over the years, the cost of work has also escalated from an estimated Rs 1100 crore to Rs 1216 crore.
The report reveals that only 72 percent of widening work on the Srinagar-Banihal road had been completed.
Similarly, on the Bijbehara bypass, of the 12.7 km work on 10 km road has been completed while work on 3.34 km Awantipora stretch is yet to be completed.
The Srinagar-Jammu highway, the only road connecting Kashmir to the rest of the world, often gets blocked during the winter season and puts commuters to extreme hardships.
A portion of the highway often gets swept away while many places along the road witness shooting stones and landslides.
In 2017, IndiaSpend carried an analysis of J&K Police and Union Home Ministry data since 2004 and found out 46 percent more people had died in road accidents in Kashmir than in armed violence.
Most of these accidents occurred on the Srinagar-Jammu highway connecting Kashmir valley, Pir Panjal region, and Chenab valley.