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 Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDC), entrusted with the job, has engaged Rodic Consultants Private Limited in a joint venture with Getnisa-Euro Studios for preparation of the DPR.
“They are on the job since August 2019 and it is going to take some time,” Deputy General Manager NHIDC, Rambachan Shivali, told Greater Kashmir.
Another official said that at first the consultancy would prepare the preliminary report that would estimate the approximate cost of the project.
“Since the work involved is complex and requires geotechnical expertise, it might take more than a year for completion of DPR. It is then for the government and public works department to take a call on its final approval,” he said.
The historic Mughal Road connects Kashmir with Poonch via southern Shopian district and when the tunnel is complete, 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 84 km Shopian-Poonch road was opened for light vehicles 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 for a decade despite repeated assurances by the Government of India.
In 2015, the PDP-BJP coalition government in its Common Minimum Program mentioned the construction of the tunnel as a priority.
Later, J&K’s roads and buildings department repeatedly took up the issue with the union ministry of roads, transport and highways (MoRTH).
Following repeated pleas, in 2017 NHIDCL sought bids from eligible consultants for preparation of DPR and to work out pre-construction activities for the tunnel.
However, the concessionaire suddenly put the tendering process on hold arguing that the MoRTH had not entrusted the project to it.
Days after imposition of Governor’s rule in J&K in 2018, the NHIDC again invited proposals for two-laning of the Mughal Road and construction of tunnel.
The people in Pir Panchal and southern districts of the Valley are eager to see the project accomplished, believing it would give them an alternative to Srinagar-Jammu National Highway.
“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 Muhammad Haroon, a teacher from Poonch.
He said if the road becomes all-weather, it would certainly ease the miseries of people on both sides which remain inaccessible due to harsh winters.
Ajaz Ahmad, a local scribe from Shopian, said the tunnel would also increase inter-regional accessibility and also boost the economy of the region.