Anantnag: Five years after the government of India sanctioned 4.5 kilometre long ambitious Vailoo-Singhpora tunnel on Anantnag-Kishtwar national highway the detailed project report (DPR) is still awaiting cabinet approval.
The much-hyped project was cleared in February 2017 after the then state government took up the matter with the Union Ministry of road transport and highways (MorTH)
Subsequently, in March of that year, the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDC) was entrusted with the job invited bids for allocation of DPR and providing pre-consultancy activities for the construction of the tunnel.
“We have submitted the DPR to the MoRTH for final approval to MoRTH,” General Manager, NHIDCL, RN Sharma told Greater Kashmir. He said it has to be approved in the cabinet now. The project has been marred by several hiccups.
“It took more than a year to finalise the tender causing a delay in the entire process,” an official said.
After shortlisting three tenders, the NHIDC finally engaged Rodic Consultants Private Limited in a joint venture with Getnisa-Euro studios to set the preparation of DPR into motion in early 2018. He said the consultancy again took more than three years to prepare DPR. “The DPR was submitted by the consultancy to NHIDC only last year. Later certain observations related to geotechnical work raised in the report were addressed first before it was finalized,” an official said.
Another official said the land acquisition was the major hassle in the project.“The land acquisition is on. However, it is a time-consuming process and that is the major hurdle they are facing,” he said. The preliminary report of the project has already been prepared and the project is likely to cost around Rs 5,000 crore. 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-meter above sea level—shuts it during winters.
The proposal for the tunnel, then estimated at Rs 4000 crore, was actually mooted in 2010 and the project was initially to be executed in Public-Private-Partnership mode with J&K Bank as the funding agency.
However, later the proposal did not see any progress and at one point in time, the project was almost shelved.
The tunnel which would start at Ahlan in the Vailoo area of Kokernag in Anantnag would bypass a treacherous stretch on-road that remains buried under snow during winter to connect with Chatroo in Kishtwar and also shorten the distance between the two districts.
The tunnel would provide an alternative to the Srinagar-Jammu National highway and help in averting frequent road accidents in Chenab valley. It would also give a fillip to tourism in the region, according to officials.
The people on either side are eager to see the project accomplished, believing that it would ease their miseries.
“The construction of the tunnel has been our long-pending demand but despite assurances by successive regimes, we have been let down every time,” said Shafiq Ahmad, a shopkeeper from Kishtwar.
He said if the road becomes all-weather, it would certainly ease the miseries of the people of Kishtiwar, which remain inaccessible due to harsh winters. Ishfaq Ahmad, from Kokernag, said the tunnel would also increase inter-regional accessibility and also boost the economy of the region.