Shopian, Aug 4: After much delay, the Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the up-gradation of the Mughal Road is finally near completion, while the process for proposed tunnel is on.
The government had started work on the DPR for the road in August 2019.
The National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDC) entrusted with the job had engaged Rodic Consultants Private Limited in a joint venture with Madrid-based Getnisa-Euro studios to prepare the DPR.
“Rodic subsequently started working on the DPR and submitted a Preliminary Project Assessment (PPR) and then for a long time nothing more was done,” an official in the Mughal Road Division told Greater Kashmir.
However, he said that lately the consultancy had shown seriousness and completed the survey of the project.
“The report is now being prepared and is expected to be submitted in a couple of months' time,” an official said.
An NHIDCL official said the reconnaissance of the road was done properly.
“We got an avalanche protection team from Chandigarh that comprised professionals involved in construction of the road,” he said. “A study of the entire stretch and workout feasibility of the road was done to see which alignment has to be taken and how avalanches can be avoided.”
The NHIDCL official said two DPRs had to be executed for the Mughal Road.
“One DPR has to be executed for the road and another for the tunnel,” he said.
General Manager, Projects NHIDCL, Raghunath Sharma also confirmed that the DPR for road widening and upgradation which involves bypassing treacherous stretches was near completion.
“It will be submitted soon,” he said.
However, Sharma said that the DPR for the tunnel that would come up on the road would take time.
The job for DPR of the tunnel has been entrusted to Samit Private Limited Company.
The consultancy has estimated the cost of the project to be approximately Rs 5000 crore.
“Since the work involved is complex and requires geotechnical expertise, it takes time for completion of DPR,” Sharma said.
Executive Engineer Mughal Road Division, Shahi Jan Itoo, also said that the NHIDCL would soon submit the project report of the road widening.
“We have been regularly holding meetings with NHIDCL regarding the project,” he said.
The historic Mughal Road connects Kashmir with Poonch via the southern Shopian district and if the tunnel is constructed, the road would be an alternative to Srinagar-Jammu National Highway, which often remains closed during winters due to landslides and shooting stones.
Though conceptualised decades ago, the 84-km Shopian-Poonch road was opened for Light Motor Vehicles (LMVs) only in 2009.
However, the road that would provide an alternative link to Kashmir with the outside world remains open for traffic during summer months only as heavy snowfall at several places including Peer Ki Gali and Bafliaz shuts it during the winters.
The ambitious project had not seen any progress for over a decade despite repeated assurances by the Centre.
In 2015, the PDP-BJP coalition government in its Common Minimum Program (CMP) put the construction of the tunnel as its top priority.
Later, the State's roads and building ministry repeatedly took up the issue with the Union Ministry of Roads, Transport, and Highways (MORTH).
Following repeated pleas of the State government, NHIDCL in 2017 sought bids from eligible consultants for the preparation of DPR and to work out pre-construction activities for the tunnel.
However, the concessionaire suddenly put the tendering process on hold arguing that the MoRTH had not entrusted the project to it.
Days after the imposition of Governor’s rule in the state in 2018, the NHIDC again invited proposals for two laning of the Mughal Road and construction of the tunnel.
However, the project received a push early this year when Union Surface Minister Nitin Gadkari approved its construction.
But despite government assurances, the thoroughfare is yet to be handed over to NHIDCL and is still maintained by the Mughal Road Division of PWD.
The people on either side are eager to see the project accomplished, believing that it would ease their miseries.
“The construction of the tunnel has been our long-pending demand but despite assurances by successive regimes, we have been let down every time. But now we hope the project will be taken up soon and completed in time, said Muhammad Rafiq, a teacher from Poonch.
He said that if the road becomes all weather, it would ease the miseries of people on both sides, which remain inaccessible due to harsh winters.
Ajaz Ahmad, a local scribe from Shopian, said that the tunnel would also increase inter-regional accessibility and boost the economy of the region.