Even as Assembly members from both treasury benches and opposition Wednesday demanded immediate opening of Chenani-Nashri tunnel in view of heavy snowfall, National Highway Authority of India ruled out the proposal by citing safety concerns.
"Civil works of tunnel are almost complete but it has to pass mandatory Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing (MEP) tests," a senior official of NHAI told Greater Kashmir.
"MEP testing is underway from last week of December and deadline of January 31, 2017 was fixed for its completion. But due to prevailing weather conditions and snowfall, electricity supply to the area was completely snapped and executing agency was unable to continue the testing and inspection process for three-four days. So it's difficult for agencies to meet the deadline and complete all the process till January 31," sources in NHIA said.
Hinting more delay in commissioning, sources added, "The tunnel also has to pass commuter safety tests, being conducted under supervision of various departments of state government including, fire and emergency, disaster management, district administrations, transport department etc and process is likely to consume another 20—25 days."
"It's not feasible to open tunnel at this juncture without completing the mandatory safety checks," said Hem Raj, Regional Director NHAI J&K.
"Testing of the tunnel is under process and we cannot open it for public use unless we get certified approvals," he added.
"Work of drafting Standard Operating Procedure (SOPs) for the tunnel is also in progress, which will set guidelines for plying of vehicles inside the tunnel and fix the duty/responsibility of various agencies, which have to deal with emergency or disaster," he claimed.
It is pertinent to mention here that the proceedings in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday began with noisy scenes after the ruling and opposition members demanded the opening of Chenani-Nashri tunnel to help the stranded passengers reach Jammu.
"Why wait for PM for its inauguration when passengers are suffering," asked Hakeem Yasin. The members stormed into the well of the house asking government to explain its position.
However, Abdul Rehman Veeri, Minister for Public Works and Parliamentary Affairs tried to pacify the member and said, "Government will look into the demand and verify the status of tunnel."
"We will look into the matter and will check, whether the tunnel is ready to open for public or not," he said.