Acquisition issues main hurdle, say officials
SOPORE: The road widening project of 120-kilometre-long Srinagar-Uri highway, considered one of the main development projects in the valley, has been hanging fire for close to a decade now. Failure of authorities to acquire land for widening of the highway, non-availability of workers (labour force), shifting of public utilities and compensation issues have not just delayed work but have almost put the whole project in limbo.
According to a senior Beacon official, the project, which is behind schedule due to land acquisition issues, has been further delayed.
The project was allotted to Beacon agency by the Government of India in 2007 but so far the executing agency has not even completed work on seven-kilometre Shaltang-Narbal stretch while work beyond Narbal point is yet to be started.
In August 2017, then Minister for Public Works, Naeem Akhtar on a visit to north Kashmir said that four-laning the highway from Narbal onwards would usher in huge change in northern Kashmir.
“The project has already been approved by the Centre and DPR is being prepared for the project after which the work will start immediately on the four laning of Srinagar-Baramulla highway,” Akhtar had said.
He added that four-laning of Baramulla- Uri stretch would be undertaken in the second phase, besides construction of an alternative road on the other side of the Jhelum up to Uri, which would connect dozens of villages.
Mohd Shafi, AEE Roads & Buildings department, Sopore told Kashmir Reader that the project has been delayed due to various reasons including “absence of compensation, shifting of religious structures, public utilities and most importantly land acquisition issue,”.
Another senior official of the R&B department, who requested not to be named, said that in 2016 there was some speculation that the PDP-BJP government wants to take over the project from Beacon for “better upkeep”, “as Beacon was only concentrating on the technical aspects of road widening and ignoring the compensation part”.
However, following the death of then chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed “the talks did not take off”.
He added that unrest in Kashmir, especially in 2016, further delayed the work on the project.
A senior retired official of R&B told Kashmir Reader that the project if completed would change the face of northern Kashmir “but the Beacon authorities are finding it difficult to start construction mainly because of land acquisition”.
He said it would have been better if Beacon authorities would at least work on constructing flyovers at the busy junctions like Pattan, Sangrama and Baramulla, which could ease the traffic pressure on the highway.
Efforts to contact Beacon authorities for further information could not materialize. While the concerned officer Brigadier Vishal Agarwal was on leave, the reference person Parsuram Bharma could not be contacted despite repeated efforts.
District Development Commissioner Baramulla, Nisar Ahmad Naqash told Kashmir Reader that the work will start on the project “only when all the DPR papers including funds availability, compensation issue and acquiring land are completed”.
Naqash refused to provide a tentative timeline frame for work to take off.