SRINAGAR: The development in Kashmir is a story of missing deadlines and work in progress. Many projects are under construction for the last so many years, with extensions issued to them year after year – reflecting the lack of capability of successive state governments to execute mega projects.
The governments and the executing agencies blame the situation in the valley or weather conditions for not meeting deadlines – taking refuge in excuses — which often leads to an escalation in the project costs.
Kashmir valley’s longest flyover from Jehangir Chowk to Rambagh here is one such example.
Announced in 2009, the construction on the flyover, funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) at an estimated cost of Rs 359 crore, began in 2013, but the project is far from completion even after missing several deadlines.
The latest was December 31, which was set by the government for the completion of phase one of the flyover — from Tulsi Bagh to Barzulla Bridge.
Then last year, the Jammu and Kashmir Economic Reconstruction Agency (JKERA), which is executing the project, had said it would be thrown open for traffic by mid-February 2018.
However, because black-topping of the stretch could not be undertaken in winter months, the agency has now pushed further the opening of the phase one of the flyover to May.
“The first phase is complete structurally. Only black- topping remains which cannot be taken in the winter months. We hope that in the last week of April or in the middle of May, if we have the right temperature needed for black-topping, then we will open it in May,” JKERA director Satish Razdan told PTI.
Razdan said many factors were responsible for missing the December 31 deadline. “We had given the deadline of December 31 for the completion of the work which has been completed, but we are not allowing traffic on it because we do not want people to have a bumpy ride and then we do not want to close it again in May (for black-topping).
“Secondly, you know that the temperature has fallen several degrees below the freezing point for the last 20 days or so, by virtue of which, the concrete is attaining its strength slowly. Load testing is an important factor for any bridge and we are still conducting those tests. We do not want to risk the lives of the people,” he said.
JKERA director said several trial runs have been conducted on the stretch and once the tests are undertaken and black-topping and other small works are done, traffic would be allowed on it.
Not only the first phase, the deadline for the phase two, which had to be completed by June this year, has also been pushed further to September 2018.
“We are hopeful of opening the (entire) flyover in September 2018 if the situation remains good and everything remains fine. The work on phase two is going on and the way the work is going on, we are hopeful of opening this sector as well by the September end,” Razdan said, adding the latest deadline was June 2018.
He said the 2014 flood and 2016 unrest were the major reasons for the delay in the work.
Another project which the JKERA is executing is the grade separator near TRC Junction here.
The foundation stone of the project was laid by former chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed in 2015 and the project, to be built at a cost of Rs 17.85 crore, was to be completed by December 2016.
However, the agency missed the deadline and a visibly small project is still under construction. The authorities have now pushed the deadline to June 2018.
Another ambitious project, undertaken by the government for easing the traffic woes of the people in the state and to improve connectivity between the two regions Kashmir and Jammu – is the four laning of Jammu-Srinagar highway.
The work on the project in Kashmir region has been going on at a sluggish pace with the project missing several deadlines, so much so that High Court had to intervene.
The work on Srinagar-Qazigund stretch was started in 2011 and the deadline to complete it was June 2014. The project executing agency not only missed the deadline but sought extension after extension. So many extensions later, the project is yet to be completed and officials say it would take three to four months more.
“The work on the project is going on. There are weather constraints and it is difficult to work in the winter months.
About 80 per cent of the work has been completed and the stretch of the project, apart from two bridges one railway over bridge and the other at the starting point in Srinagar – will be thrown open for traffic in the next three to four months,” Vipin Sharma, project director for the section, National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), told PTI.
Sharma said certain issues like land acquisition and availability of funds, apart from the adverse weather, were responsible for the delay in completion of the project.
“The deadline was December (2017), but there were procedural delays which were resolved only in the month of August. The land acquisition was another problem, which now has been resolved,” he said.
He said the work on the Banihal to Ramban stretch, which was allotted in 2015, is on. “That is the most difficult stretch. The progress there is hardly six to seven per cent as on date,” he said.
Sharma said the basic problem in Kashmir valley is that the working season is very small.
He said it will take a minimum of two more years for the part of the project in Kashmir region to be completed.
“I do not think the Srinagar to Ramban part of the four- lane highway will be thrown open to the public before 2019,” he said.
Not only mega projects, the state has even missed several deadlines for small developmental works like construction of bridges and hospitals in the valley.