Bandipora: The dilapidated road between Bandipora and Gurez in north Kashmir is irksome not only to the local residents but hundreds of visitors who prefer to hit the mountainous region during the peak summer months and early fall. The fair-weather road gives tough time to drivers who embark on the arduous journey to the bewitching Valley.
Situated in the high Himalayas along the famed Kishanganga River, also known as Neelum, Gurez is located 123 kilometers north of Srinagar and 86 Kilometers from district headquarters of Bandipora. It borders Gilgit in Pakistan and connects to Kargil and Drass regions through Tulail region.
Gurez Valley remains under snow for nearly six months. Due to heavy snowfall the area remains cut-off from rest of the world, which forces nearly 26,000 residents of Dard-Shin community to live a life of seclusion and despondency.
The preparations for the harsh winter start immediately after the road is cleared. All the essential commodities reach through 86 km-long lone road-link from Bandipore district headquarters in north Kashmir. However, despite being the lone road-link, the residents allege non-seriousness on part of the authorities to keep the road in better condition. “The authorities have failed to undertake any up-gradation on the road which makes our travel to Bandipora hectic,” Abdul Salaam Chakat, a Gurez resident from Achoora village, said.
He alleged that local administration and Border Roads Organization pay no attention to the problems that people face on daily basis. “The authorities built the road in Ladakh and Zojila but paid no attention to the roads of our area. This showed the non-serious approach of Government towards the connectivity of remote areas,” he said. The locals also said that every year Government spends crores of rupees under Pradhan Mantri Gharam Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) and Border Areas Development Program (BADP) but the Gurez area remains unattended.
“Nothing is being done to maintain this important connecting link,” Shameem Lone, a student said. Referring to the recently held three-day Gurez Festival, he said such initiatives have failed to render desired results as the tourists get discouraged by bumpy rides. “Who will visit a place where roads are in bad shape? The Tourism Department organized a festival to attract tourists to this virgin place but bad roads awash their efforts,” he said.
He further added that 330 mega-watt Kishanganga Hydroelectric power project is near completion which wreaked havoc in the Kandhalwan village, “not only did it further deteriorate the road conditions, but also dislocated Shina Tribe in the area”.
The residents of Gurez said they pleaded with the authorities several times but to no avail. “The entire road stretch from Razdan to Kanzalwan up to Dawar is in bad shape as road is dug up at several places. No major repair work has been carried out on the road since past several years,” they said.
The condition of the road even discourages the transporters. “Many Tata Sumo drivers refuse to travel on this road which is hampering the movement of the people,” they said. The officials at Border Roads Organisation (BRO) said they have prepared a report for the repairs of the vital road link as it is realistically impossible to macadamize the entire road stretch in one go. “We have blacktopped 10 kilometres from Badi Beth to Pethakot and one kilometer from Pir Baba towards Gurez. We will be blacktopping 9 more kilometers, upto kilometer No 26, which is Tragbal general area by this year. “The road near Kandhalwan to Tota Bridge is in the plan. Some repairs is being carried out at Dawar market,” an official said.