‘Likely to open for traffic by end of this month’
The construction work on the critically and strategically important 9.2 km Chenani –Nashri tunnel is likely to complete by the end of this month.
The authorities executing its construction said though its completion hinges on weather and availability of the un-interrupted power supply.
“We are in the final stages of testing process- comprising of mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) tests. They were earlier scheduled to be completed by end of January; however, due to bad weather they have been delayed. We are hopeful of its completion by this month, but it depends of clear weather and power supply, which was badly affected due to heavy snowfall in the area,” said an officer working on the site, wishing not to be quoted.
Sources said the tunnel is likely to be inaugurated by the prime minister, though the final day will be cleared and issued by the Prime Minister Office, after the a communication is issued to them about the successful completion work of the tunnel.
“We are quite hopeful that it will be inaugurated in March, though it depends on the final confirmation and approval by the PMO. However, we hope that the traffic of durbar move-which opens on first week of May in Srinagar- employees, will pass through this tunnel” said the officer, quoted above.
The work on the construction of 9.2 kilometers tunnels, connecting Udhampur district with Ramban district on Jammu-Srinagar Highway, was started on May 23, 2011. The initial completion period of projects of this nature is five-year and as such was to be thrown open for traffic by the end of last year.
The delay in construction work-though not much extended- has somehow got the political colour with legislators from these two districts and also of the Doda districts pressing for its early opening up.
“There have been instances where some ministers pressed for approval to pass through this tunnel. On one or two occasions we are forced to open it for their cavalcade but after taking up the issue with the higher authorities of the state government, we have stopped entertaining such requests strictly. The passing of even one vehicle delays our work for two days as all executing operations are affected,” said the officer.
The tunnel will reduce the travelling distance between the two points from the existing 41 kilometers to 10.89 kilometers, by-passing Kud-Patnitop-Batote circuit.
The work initially got delayed due to dispute between construction workers and executing agency and inclement weather conditions particularly heavy snowfall, flash floods, landslides and 2014 floods.
Sources informed that MEP was started in last week of December with initial deadline of January 31, 2017.
The scheduled date of completion of Rs 2519 crore tunnel project was May 2016 and the executing agency was hopeful to finish its job by December 2015, around five months ahead of the deadline but failed to complete the project, resulting in extension of deadlines.