Srinagar, Jan 14: A Parliamentary Committee on Transport, Tourism has recommended the central government to lay special focus on the development and maintenance of National Highways (NHs) in Jammu and Kashmir as it will spur economic activities and further the tourism prospects of the region.
The recommendations of the Parliamentary Panel hold significance as the lone surface link to Kashmir i.e., 270 km Srinagar –Jammu highway is prone to weather vagaries. It often remains closed due to landslides while the Mughal road, another link to Kashmir, remains closed for the most part of the winter.
“The Committee is of the considered view that the Ministry (Road, Transport and Highways) must place special focus on the maintenance of roads in Jammu and Kashmir, since the region needs good connectivity throughout the year, from both economic as well as strategic viewpoints,” read a panel's recommendation.
“A well-connected, well-maintained road network would spur economic activities and further the tourism prospects of the region. The Committee, therefore, recommends the Ministry to ensure sufficient budgetary provisions for this purpose and in case any shortage is felt in this regard, the same may be communicated to the Ministry of Finance at the Revised Estimates (2021-22) stage."
The Union Road Transports and Highways Ministry in its reply to the Committee has stated that the development of the Punjab and J&K border to Jammu and Jammu to Srinagar section has been taken up by NHAI.
It has maintained that the development of 4-lanes from Punjab and J&K border to Jammu and Jammu to Udhampur has been completed. “Further Udhampur to Chenani and Nashri to Ramban is in progress (76 percent physical progress). Tunnel work between Chenani and Nashri has been completed. Stretch from Ramban to Banihal is in progress (30 percent physical progress). Stretch from Banihal to Qazigund and up to Srinagar has been substantially completed,” it has further reported.
“Maintenance of Jammu-Srinagar National Highway-44 has been carried out on a regular basis. NHAI field officers including IEs or AEs regularly monitor the maintenance works being carried out by the Concessionaires or contractors. Any important or urgent maintenance, if observed, is immediately brought to the notice of the Concessionaire or contractor for necessary rectification and is carried out accordingly from time to time,” the Ministry has replied.
“To bypass the landslide-prone areas between Ramban to Banihal, re-alignment or value addition proposal in the form of tunnel or viaduct has been proposed and bids have been invited in three different packages," it has informed.
NHAI also invited bids for maintenance of under construction stretches between Udhampur to Banihal at the risk and cost of contractors, who had failed to maintain the highway as per standards. Maintenance works would be completed before the onset of the monsoon season, it further maintained.
“Further, in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir NHIDCL has been entrusted with the development and maintenance of 424.75 km of National Highways. Routine maintenance of the Batote-Kishtwar section is under progress. As of date 15 projects of length 268.63 kms of cost Rs 13784 Cr are under implementation including Z-Morh and Zojila tunnel. NHIDCL has awarded 10 projects of length 167 kms costing about Rs 5598 Cr in FY 2020-21. Further in FY 2021-22, NHIDCL is planning to award projects of length 372.93 km of about Rs 17994.77 Cr including Chenani-Sudhmahadev-Daranga and Vailoo tunnel,” it has informed.