The National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDC) entrusted with the job, in March 2019 engaged Rodic Consultants Private Limited in a joint venture with Madrid-based Getnisa-Euro studios to prepare the DPR.
“Rodic started work on the DPR in August last year. However, until now it only has been able to submit a preliminary project assessment (PPR),” an official in Mughal Road division told Greater Kashmir.
The consultancy, he said, has estimated the cost of the project to approximately Rs 4000 crore.
“Since the work involved is complex and requires geotechnical expertise, it will take at least a year for completion of DPR if taken seriously. It is then for the government and public works department to take a call on its final approval,” an official said.
The historic Mughal Road connects Kashmir with Poonch via southern Shopian district and if the tunnel is constructed, the road would be an alternative to Srinagar-Jammu national highway, which often remains closed during winters due to landslides and shooting stones.
Though conceptualized, decades ago, the 84km-long Shopian-Poonch road was opened for light vehicles only in 2009. However, the road remains open for traffic during summer months only as heavy snowfall at several places including Peer Ki Gali and Bafliaz shuts it during winters.
The ambitious project had not seen any progress since a decade despite repeated assurances by the government of India.
In 2015, the PDP-BJP coalition government in its Common Minimum Program (CMP) put the construction of tunnel on top priority. Later, the roads and building ministry repeatedly took up the issue with the union ministry of roads, transport and highways (MORTH).
Following repeated pleas of the then state government, NHIDCL in 2017 sought bids from eligible consultants for preparation of DPR.
However, the concessionaire suddenly put the tendering process on hold arguing that the MoRTH had not entrusted the project to it. Days after the imposition of governor’s rule in the J&K in 2018, the NHIDC again invited proposals for two laning of the Mughal Road and construction of the tunnel.
The people on either side are eager to see the project accomplished, believing that it would ease their miseries.
“The construction of the tunnel has been our long pending demand but despite assurances by successive regimes, we have been let down every time. This time we hope the project would be taken up soon and completed in time,” said Muhamad Haroon, a teacher from Poonch