The government has set into motion the process for preparation of Detailed Project Report for the proposed Mughal Road Tunnel that would make it an all-weather route.
The National Highwaysand Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDC), entrusted with the job, hasengaged Rodic Consultants Private Limited in a joint venture with Getnisa-EuroStudios for preparation of the DPR.
"They are on the jobsince August 2019 and it is going to take some time," Deputy General ManagerNHIDC, Rambachan Shivali, told Greater Kashmir.
Another official saidthat at first the consultancy would prepare the preliminary report that wouldestimate the approximate cost of the project.
"Since the workinvolved is complex and requires geotechnical expertise, it might take morethan a year for completion of DPR. It is then for the government and publicworks department to take a call on its final approval," he said.
The historic MughalRoad connects Kashmir with Poonch via southern Shopian district and when thetunnel is complete, the road would be an alternative to Srinagar-Jammu NationalHighway which often remains closed during winters due to landslides and shootingstones.
Though conceptualizeddecades ago, the 84 km Shopian-Poonch road was opened for light vehicles in2009. However the road remains open for traffic during summer months only asheavy snowfall at several places including Peer Ki Gali and Bafliaz shuts itduring winters.
The ambitious projecthad not seen any progress for a decade despite repeated assurances by theGovernment of India.
In 2015, the PDP-BJPcoalition government in its Common Minimum Program mentioned the constructionof the tunnel as a priority.
Later, J&K's roadsand buildings department repeatedly took up the issue with the union ministryof roads, transport and highways (MoRTH).
Following repeatedpleas, in 2017 NHIDCL sought bids from eligible consultants for preparation ofDPR and to work out pre-construction activities for the tunnel.
However, theconcessionaire suddenly put the tendering process on hold arguing that theMoRTH had not entrusted the project to it.
Days after impositionof Governor's rule in J&K in 2018, the NHIDC again invited proposals fortwo-laning of the Mughal Road and construction of tunnel.
The people in PirPanchal and southern districts of the Valley are eager to see the projectaccomplished, believing it would give them an alternative to Srinagar-JammuNational Highway.
"The construction ofthe tunnel has been our long pending demand but despite assurances bysuccessive regimes, we have been let down every time. This time we hope theproject would be taken up soon and completed in time, said Muhammad Haroon, ateacher from Poonch.
He said if the roadbecomes all-weather, it would certainly ease the miseries of people on bothsides which remain inaccessible due to harsh winters.
Ajaz Ahmad, a localscribe from Shopian, said the tunnel would also increase inter-regionalaccessibility and also boost the economy of the region.