SHOPIAN: Absence of a tunnel at the Zaznar to Chattapani stretch has left the historic Mughal Road unusable in the winter months. Those who thought the road would serve as a second (alternative) highway connecting the Kashmir valley with the rest of the state, are a disappointed lot.
The Mughal Road, which goes through Shopian to Rajouri and Poonch in Jammu, lies closed since December 2017. The 84-kilometer road remains closed every year almost for four months. It not only stops vehicular services but also hampers the business which started between the two regions when the road was repaired and made functional again.
Experts suggest that construction of a tunnel from Zaznar to Chattapani would make it an all-season road. They said that the government has already proposed a tunnel between the areas but only its construction can solve the problems of people.
An official from the mechanical division Anantnag told Kashmir Reader that the Mughal Road development authorities have often asked for help. “I recently visited the road and there were high chances of avalanches and shooting stones,” Executive Engineer Muhammad Afzal said, adding that the construction of a tunnel will make the road open in all seasons.
Javid Ahmad Dar, who used to trade cattle and sheep with Rajouri traders, said that the opening of the Mughal Road brought new opportunities for business and cultural exchange between the two regions. Aijaz Ahmad Ganie, another trader who used to send apples to Rajouri and Poonch, said, “Before the Mughal Road opened, there were very less rates of B-grade apples, but since we began taking the B-grade apples to Rajouri and Poonch, we saw good gains for us as well as the growers.”
Cab drivers from Shopian appealed to the government to construct a tunnel at Mughal Road so that they could run their cabs in all seasons.
Not only trade and commerce, the Mughal Road also brought people from the two regions together. Several marriages took place between families living in the two regions.
Executive Engineer, Mughal Road (Division Shopian), Muhammad Sadiq said that in the past they used to start snow clearance after 15th April but this year they may clear it by the end of March. “This year there was less snowfall and if weather remains pleasant we will start snow clearance by the end of March,” he said.
He added that almost 40 kilometers are prone to avalanches and shooting stones, of which 20 kilometers are on the Shopian side and 20 on the Poonch side.
“We have sent a DPR (detailed project report) to the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) for the proposal of tunnel from Zaznar to Chattapani,” he said.
“The construction of the tunnel will convert 30 kilometers of the current road that has the most apprehension of avalanches and shooting stones into eight kilometers of tunnel,” Sidiq told Kashmir Reader.