Bad roads to hit flood-ravaged Kashmir’s revival

At a time when flood-ravaged Kashmir is struggling for revival, bumpy roads are feared to hinder prospects of any good business, particularly the tourism this season.
Bad roads to hit flood-ravaged Kashmir’s revival
File Photo

At a time when flood-ravaged Kashmir is struggling for revival, bumpy roads are feared to hinder prospects of any good business, particularly the tourism this season.

Against Rs 600 crore demand for the revamp of road network devastated by September deluge, Roads and Buildings (R&B) department given the past precedence, does not expect to get more than Rs 125 crore.

Official sources said that of the 14,000 kilometer road network in the Valley, around 2000 kilometers are badly damaged.

While the J&K government has pegged the damage to the road network by the floods at Rs 439 crore and sought central government assistance, the officials said not a penny has so far been released to the department in this behalf.

Post floods, bad roads have emerged as a major challenge for revival of business including tourism.

For the worst-hit summer capital where damage to infrastructure remained more than the aggregate of losses in other districts, even the commercial hub of Lal Chowk has been unable to recover. 

"Roads leading to every market are full of dust and potholes. How can you expect customer footfalls or business revival in these conditions?" Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation President Muhammad Yasin Khan said. "Our revival is being sabotaged on every front."

Earlier this month the powerful Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries picked up the issue of poor road conditions with the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Rohit Kansal and the Director Tourism Farooq Ahmed Shah at a jointly held meeting.

Pleading that connectivity to all tourist destinations was in bad shape, the KCCI President Sheikh Ashiq sought immediate attention towards road revamp.

"If roads are not improved for the season, business won't revive and tourism can be the biggest casuality," he said. 

Director Tourism seconded the Kashmir Inc and equally sought immediate road repairs to all resorts.

But Kansal presumably aware of the financial limitations tactfully pleaded that prevalent weather conditions were a hindrance in the development. "Let's wait for summers because this is not the appropriate season for any blacktopping," the Divisional Commissioner told the representatives of business fraternity.The R&B looks helpless.

"Though our normal annual budget requirement for road maintenance is around Rs 250 crore, we at the most can get Rs 125 crore only. The allocation has not been increased even this year despite the fact that Kashmir was hit by the worst ever floods," said a senior official in the Civil Secretariat on phone from Jammu.

"In fact," he said, "our plan has been tactfully reduced. In the past few years we would get Rs 125 crore annually for road maintenance and some additional sum for land acquisitions but now we are asked to manage land acquisitions out of the road maintenance fund," he explained.

On Thursday Governor N N Vohra, admitted that poor road network was hampering growth. 

Speaking at 2-day conference of Governors, Vohra said J&K has very poor road network, resulting in costly transport and very high unit cost of construction and other materials, including consumer items, because of unaffordable transportation charges. He called for better maintenance of roads and highways.

Chief Engineer R&B Kashmir SK Razdan admitted that devastation to road network has been colossal and the financial resources needed for its revamp require a substantial special grant over and above the annual allocation.

Referring to previous government's Rs 44,000 crore rehabilitation proposal submitted to New Delhi, he said that they were looking ahead for financial assistance from this package.

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