Off the track again
Last week there was a bad news again about a further delay in the re-construction of the Mughal Road. This much-delayed and much-awaited road - connecting Kashmir Valley and the Jammu region through the border district of Poonch - is now unlikely to be complete before 2012. The road which was expected to open for one-way traffic this month is now expected to take at least another two years to finish. But serious questions are being raised about the rationale of this delay.
The 84-km road, taken up for execution in March 2006 from Buffliaz in Poonch district and Heerpora in Shopian district, was actually expected to be completed by this year as a full fledged double lane 7-metre blacktopped carriage way. Needless to day, the reconstruction of the road is highly critical for the economy of the Kashmir Valley and most of the Jammu region. Significantly, the road will reduce the distance of 541 km from Poonch to Srinagar to only 174 km.
Astonishingly, it will reduce the travel time between Poonch and Srinagar from 32 hours via Jammu to 7 hours via Buffliaz-Shopian. The road will also connect the highly isolated areas like Buffliaz, Poshana, Chattapani, Peer Ki Gali, Aliabad, Zaznar, Dubjan with the economic hub of the Kashmir Valley on the one side and the markets of the Jammu region on the other.
The only topographical difficulty in the road – which passes through altitudes ranging from 5,412 ft at Buffliaz and 11,460 ft at Peer Ki Gali – is the Peer Ki Gali Pass, which, in any case, is not unique, given the fact that this state has a number of roads traversing such passes. One of the most significant engineering aspects of this road is that, barring some 11 km, the entire road length is facing south, which increases its harsh winter braving capability. Such a feature is critical for roads passing through high passes in mountain regions.
Some people have also started raising pointless questions about the cost escalation in the project. Given the utility of the road, its revised cost of Rs 639.85 crore is a paltry amount. It is true that the original cost of the project in 1980s was Rs. 255 crore, but the rate of inflation since then has been much higher than the rate of its cost escalation. One important aspect being ignored is that the reason that the project has been revised at a cost of Rs. 639.85 crore is basically to accommodate construction of double-lane, seven major bridges, 21 minor bridges and 263 culverts, not part of the original plan.
The argument that it is the disturbed conditions in the Valley and landslides that have hampered the work on the road isn’t too convincing. In a project of such nature, foreseen and unforeseen hurdles are normally factored into project design and the timeline. It may be true that some migrant laborers working on the project have fled because of the unrest in the Valley. But another fact is that most of the workers on the project come from the Jammu side, where things have been totally normal. The original annual plan for the year 2009-10 was Rs. 239 crore to achieve several unrelated civil construction targets. They were double-laning for 84 km, water-bound macadam for 45 km, widening of double-lane status for 28 km, blacktopping of 45 km with cross drainage, GSB layer of 59.5 km, construction of 11 service bridges, 17 minor bridges, substructure for seven major bridges and 263 number of culverts. Unrest or landslides could not have impacted all these.
J&K government needs to look into the accountability issue of private construction companies here. A two-year delay in such a prestigious project is untenable. Some time back Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had also talked about exploring the possibility of a tunnel between Zaznar to Ratachamb on the road to bypass the Peer Ki Gali to shorten the distance. That possibility also needs to be explored seriously.
Lastupdate on : Fri, 15 Oct 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 15 Oct 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 16 Oct 2010 00:00:00 IST
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