No light at end of Vailoo-Singhpora tunnel

8 months on, DPR yet to be cleared

Eight months after the government of India approved the 4.5 km-long ambitious Vailoo-Singhpora tunnel on the Anantnag-Kishtwar road, the tender for the Detailed Project Report (DPR) is yet to be issued.   

The project was cleared in February after Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti took up the matter with the Union Ministry of Road Transport & Highways. Subsequently, in March the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDC) entrusted with the job invited bids for allocation of the DPR and providing pre-consultancy activities for construction of the tunnel.

“Three tenders were shortlisted but none finalised,” a source in the NHIDC told Greater Kashmir. He said that after the tenders will be allotted, the process for preparation of DPR would be set into motion.

Managing director NHIDC Nagendra Sinha said that it might take a year or more for preparing the DPR.

“It is a complex work and involves geo-technical expertise so it is bound to take time,” Sinha said. He said that it is a huge project and might cost Rs 5,000 crore.

Minister for Roads and Buildings Nayeem Akhtar said the project will be taken up sooner or later.

“It takes time for preparation of DPR. The good thing is that the government of India has given a go-ahead for the project after CM’s personal intervention,” Akhtar said.

Though conceptualised 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 metres above the sea level, shuts it during winters.

The proposal for the tunnel, then estimated to cost Rs 4,000 crore, was actually mooted in 2010 and the project was initially to be executed in Public-Private-Partnership mode with the J&K Bank as the funding agency.

However, the proposal did not see any progress. At one point in time the project was almost shelved.

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