SHOPIAN: With no mechanical division of its own, snow clearance on the historic Mughal Road is once again being delayed due to the lack of men and machinery. Officials from the Mechanical department Shopian said that the snow clearance process will be started by 15 March; however, the Executive Engineer Mughal Road said it would be started by April this year.
The 84-kilometre stretch connecting Kashmir with Poonch and Rajouri remains closed for almost six months each year due to the heavy snowfall in this avalanche-prone region. The road has not only helped the two regions it links to strengthen business but has facilitated cultural exchanges among people living in these two different regions. Many marriages have taken place here since the opening of this road.
Mughal Road passes over the Pir Panjal mountain range at an altitude of 3,500 metres (11,500 ft), higher than the Banihal pass at 2,832 meters. The road also reduced the distance between Shopian town in Kashmir and Poonch in Jammu region from 588 to 126 metres.
At this time, however, locals and those who do business with Poonch and Rajori say the closure of the road had halted their businesses for a long period. Snows in the region make them jobless, they said, as the snowfall always results in the closure of this road. “Either there should be a tunnel or the government should initiate an alternative to speed up the snow clearance process using modern heavy machinery and technical staff, so we would not suffer due to the road closure any further,” said Javid Ahmad Khan, a small-scale businessman from Shopian.
Assistant Executive Engineer Mechanical, Shopian, Fayaz Ahmad told Kashmir Reader that this year there is much more snow on Mughal Road as compared to last year and it may take them more than 50 days to clear it. “Having no mechanical division for Mughal Road, it often takes time due to the lack of technical staff. From 15 November to 15 March, we have to clear the general roads, and it is after their completion that we start the snow clearance on Mughal Road,” he said.
Executive Engineer, Mughal Road, division Shopian, DK Kaith told Kashmir Reader that the snow clearance on the 44 kilometre road will be started from 1 April. It will take them 25 days to complete the operation which, according to field officials, would otherwise take about two months.
Kaith also said that they work with Mechanical Division Anantnag for the snow clearance. When asked why this highway has no seperate mechanical division, he claimed that the Anantnag one is the division for Mughal Road; however, officals from the Mechanical Department said that the file for sanction of a mechanical division for the road is pending with the government and the officials have been waiting for it for several years.
They also said that there is more than 16 feet of snow in the Pir ki Gali area, which is much more as compared to last year.