No light at the end of Vailoo-Singhpora tunnel

Four years after government of India accorded approval to 4.5 Km long Vailoo-Singhpora tunnel on Anantnag-Kishtiwar national highway, the detailed project report (DPR) is still to be finalized.

The much-hyped project was cleared on February 2017 after the then state government took up the matter with the union ministry of road transport and highways (MoRTH).

Subsequently, in March that year the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDC) entrusted invited bids for allocation of DPR and providing pre-consultancy activities for construction of the tunnel.

“It took more than a year to finalize the tender causing a delay in the entire process,” an in NHIDC told Greater Kashmir.

After short-listing three tenders, the NHIDC finally engaged Rodic Consultants Private Limited in joint venture with Getnisa-Euro Studios to set the preparation of DPR into motion in early 2018.

Deputy General Manager, NHIDC Praveen Ahlawat said that the land acquisition was the only hassle in the preparation.

“The land acquisition, documentation, procedure and the joint survey are on. However, acquisition of land is the time consuming process and that is the only hurdle,” he said.

The DGM said that the design preparation is also on and would be completed in a time-bound manner.

Another official said, the Rodic consultants after preparing the DPR will submit it to NHIDC for further evaluation, only after which it will be finalized.

“As of now, it seems the chances of the project seeing any progress look bleak,” he said.

The preliminary report of the project has already been prepared and the project is likely to cost around Rs 5,000 crore.

Though conceptualized four decades ago, the 140-km-long Anantnag-Kokernag-Kishtwar road was opened for light vehicles only in 2009.

However, the road that would provide an alternative link to Kashmir with the outside world remains open for traffic during summer months only as heavy snowfall at several places including Sinthan Pass—situated at 3797 meter above sea level—shuts it during winters.

The proposal for the tunnel, then estimated at Rs 4000 crore, was actually mooted in 2010 and the project was initially to be executed in Public-Private-Partnership mode with J&K Bank as the funding agency.

However, later the proposal did not see any progress and at one point of time the project was almost shelved.

The tunnel which would start at Ahlan in Vailoo area of Kokernag in Anantnag would bypass a treacherous stretch on the road that remains buried under snow during winter to connect with Chatroo in Kishtwar and also shorten the distance between two districts.

The tunnel would provide an alternative to the Srinagar-Jammu National highway and help in averting frequent road accidents in the Chenab valley.

It would also give a fillip to tourism in the region, according to officials. 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,” said Manzoor Ahmad, a shopkeeper from Kishtiwar. He said if the road becomes all weather, it would certainly mitigate the problems of people of Kishtiwar, which remain inaccessible due to harsh winters.

Muhamad Saleem, from Kokernag, said the tunnel would also increase inter-regional accessibility and also boost the economy of the region.