Ramban: The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) through National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has undertaken construction of tunnels, viaducts at identified sliding slips or zones between Nashri and Banihal stretch of Srinagar Jammu National Highway in Ramban district.
According to officials, the entire exercise is aimed at addressing the problem of frequent closure of Srinagar Jammu National Highway – crucial link between Kashmir and rest of the country, due to landslides, shooting stones in inclement weather conditions.
In Udhampur-Ramban section of NH-44 in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir under residual NHDP (National Highway Development Project) through an Engineering Procurement and Construction (EPC), NHAI has started construction work of tunnels viaducts. For this purpose, the NHAI has also realigned its projects.
After the realignment to bypass treacherous stretches, the work on five tunnels, 33 culverts, 13 viaducts, 11 bridges and three under passes is going on.
To avoid and bypass the landslide and shooting stone prone areas between Nashri and Ramban in Udhampur-Ramban section, NHAI has started constructing a tunnel from Mehar to Ramban and four viaducts at Nashri-Dawlass areas.
The tunnel works at other vulnerable and trouble points at Chambalwass to Sherbibi; Panthyal to Magarkote; Panthyal to Khooni Nallah; Khooni Nallah to Digdol; Digdol-Maroog and Kelamorh to Seri on 36 kms long Ramban-Banihal road stretch are going on.
Earlier, the district administration Ramban had proposed tunneling at various locations on Srinagar Jammu National Highway between Nashri to Banihal and had requested the government and National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) so that better road connectivity was provided to Jammu and Kashmir.
In this connection, the then Additional Deputy Commissioner Ramban had shot a letter number 957-64/ACQ/NH1A dated March 16, 2017 in which it was stated that the execution work of four-laning of National Highway was in progress from Nashri to Banihal in Ramban district in the hilly, fragile and slide prone area.
“The slope angle at some locations varies from 60 to 80 degrees. The landslides are a common phenomenon which is due to cutting of high slopes,” it was mentioned.
In the letter it was also informed that Banihal Cart (BC) road, now National Highway, was made decades ago but the area had not become stable and the slides still persisted in this area.
“All the efforts, including scientific treatment like anchoring of the slopes, have also failed because the mountains lose rocky areas. In this district at some places, where the construction work had started and completed, the stretch has become slide prone especially during heavy rains as a result vehicular movement remains adversely affected,” it was brought to the notice of executing agencies.
The district administration had also informed the National Highway Authority of India that since this stretch was different as compared to rest of the National Highway therefore tunneling was the only alternative in the stretch between Ramban to Banihal so that National Highway, the only life line to the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh, should remain restored round the year and the casualties due to shooting of stones could be reduced.
It is important to mention here that a number of commuters have been killed due to road accidents related to landslides and shooting stones.
In the view of tough topography of hilly terrain between Ramban and Banihal, on the directions of government, NHAI had prepared a DPR, floated tenders in the year June 2021 and work was allotted to various companies.
The work on realigned project which included more tunnels and bridges to avoid land sliding was started in Ramban district.
Deputy Commissioner Ramban Mussarat Islam too had confirmed that the work on tunnels and viaducts after realignment was started at various places between Ramban and Banihal including at Mehar-Ramban stretch to avoid Cafeteria Morh landslide.