In Kashmir, 1000 kms of damaged roads need blacktopping

Prolonged winter and unusual damage to roads by heavy snow last winter have rendered over 1000 kilometers of road length in Kashmir to a bad shape, urgently requiring fresh blacktopping to ease lives of commuters.

According to an internal assessment of the State Government’s Public Works Department (PWD), over 1000 kilometers of road length in Kashmir has been damaged since last winter.

However, officials of the PWD blame meager allocation of funds from the Government as the main hurdle in ensuring blacktopping of badly damaged roads.

“There is a requirement to undertake blacktopping of 1000 KMs of road length. To macadamise one kilometer of a road costs an estimated Rs 35 lakh,” a PWD official said.

“On this estimate our Department requires at least Rs 350 crore, but unfortunately we have been allocated only Rs 200 crore.”

The J&K Government has allocated Rs 200 crore each for blacktopping of roads in Jammu and Kashmir Divisions in the budget 2019-20 approved by State Administrative Council.

“Because of the meager allocation the Department owes Rs 719 crore to contractors on account of works done by them during past few years,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

Chief Engineer, Roads and Buildings Department, Kashmir, Sami Arif, admitted that 1000 kilometers of road length in Kashmir has to be macadamised by the end of 2019.

“Due to harsh winter this year, road damages were massive. Further, the inclement weather didn’t allow us to undertake repairs at the earliest,” Arif told Greater Kashmir.

 “Besides, contractors had boycotted works which further creates hurdles. However, now we have started work on fast-track basis as a result of which so far we have been able to blacktop 150 kilometers of road length out of damaged 1000 Kilometers.”

Arif added that the Department had expedited the process of repairing roads so that people don’t face any inconvenience.

“Road links are being repaired. Wherever there is need of patchwork the Department is repairing it,” Arif said.

However, according to contractors, the PWD still owes a whopping Rs 719 crore to them which is hampering the progress of developmental works in Kashmir.

Chairman, Jammu and Kashmir Contractors Coordination Committee, Ghulam Jeelani Purza, said that the Government was only carrying out patchwork of damaged roads due to its failure to pay pending bills of contractors.

“Our roads are in a shambles, but it seems that the Government’s priority is not the development of Kashmir. Contractors have no money to undertake works. It is a shame that despite repeated assurances to pay our bills Government has failed to do so.”

Roads maintained by Government’s Roads and Buildings department has increased from 18,368 kms in 2007-08 to 35,289 kms during 2016-17.

The total road length in Kashmir is 14,803 kms; 15920 in Jammu; 3202 kms in Leh district and 1364 km in Kargil district.