Anantnag: Five years after the Centre accorded approval to the 4.5-km ambitious Vailoo-Singhpora tunnel on Anantnag-Kishtwar national highway, the Detailed Project Report (DPR) has been submitted even as it awaits final 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).
In March that year, National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDC) entrusted with the job invited bids for allocation of DPR and providing pre-consultancy activities for the construction of the tunnel.
“It took more than a year to finalise the tender, causing a delay in the entire process,” an official said.
After short-listing three tenders, the NHIDC engaged Rodic Consultants Private Limited in a joint venture with Getnisa-Euro Studios to set the preparation of DPR into motion in early 2018.
The official said that the consultancy again took more than three years to prepare the DPR.
“The DPR has been submitted to us by the consultancy. However, certain observations related to geotechnical work raised in the report need to be addressed first before it is finalized,” Deputy General Manager, NHIDC, Jhon Wali Shaik told Greater Kashmir.
He said that the project report would then be sent for final approval.
Another official said that 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 5000 crore.
Though conceptualised four decades ago, the 140-km Anantnag-Kokernag-Kishtwar road was opened for light motor 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 12,460 feet above the sea level - shuts it during the 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 the 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 Vailoo area of Kokernag in Anantnag would bypass 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.
According to officials, it would also give a fillip to tourism in the region.
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 of successive regimes we have been let down every time,” said Mushtaq Ahmad, a shopkeeper from Kishtwar.
He said that if the road becomes all-weather, it would certainly ease the miseries of the people of Kishtwar, which remain inaccessible due to harsh winters.
Imtiyaz Ahmad from Kokernag said that the tunnel would also increase inter-regional accessibility and also boost the economy of the region.