The prolonged closure of the 270-kilometre Srinagar-Jammu National Highway due to landslides triggered by inclement weather has been a norm for the last several decades.
Locals from Banihal recollect that due to a heavy snowfall in 1985-1986, which had led to closure of the highway for almost two weeks is one of the longest road closures in the last four decades. In 1991 also, a heavy spell of snowfall had led to the closure of the road for several days.
“There are so many times when the road has been closed for more than a week. Vehicles getting stranded and commuters, drivers suffering has been a norm for decades now,” said Muhammad Taskeen, a local from Banihal. He recollected the tragic incident of a snow storm at the Jawahar Tunnel in 2005, due which several lives were lost and highway closed for many days as “a major tragedy” due to which highway was closed for more than one week. Due to a major landslide at Nihad in Ramban during 2018, the highway had remained closed for 10 days.
Last year in March, a major portion of road sunk at Dalwas between Ramban and Batote resulting in closure of the highway for 9 days. Ever since excavation work has been undertaken for road widening, there have been frequent cases of landslides and shooting stones at Samroli located between Udhampur and Ramban resulting in closure of the road for days together every winter.
In the Ramban to Banihal stretch the most vulnerable spots where road closure for several days due to landslides has been taking place are at Panthyal. At Digdole where a portion of road sunk last year had led to one week closure of the highway. The road has been closed for more than a week more than five times in the last ten years due to landslides at Maroog and Cafeteria Morh.
Mompasi between Magarkot and Banihal has been another vulnerable spot for landslides due to which the road has remained closed for continuous one week or more for the last many years.
At Gangroo between Ramsu and Banihal during 2015-16 Border Roads Organisation had taken 10 to 15 days to make the road travel-worthy after heavy landslides had damaged a vast portion of the road.