People again appeal for construction of tunnel on the road they describe as ‘lifeline’
SHOPIAN: The 84-km Mughal Road was on Wednesday thrown open for vehicular movement after five months of continuous closure due to accumulated snow and risk of snow avalanches. One-way traffic was allowed from Shopian in Kashmir to Poonch in Jammu region on Wednesday. According to officials, if the weather remains fine, traffic from Poonch to Shopian would be allowed on Thursday.
Officials from the mechanical engineering department said that since this road was refurbished and thrown open for civilian vehicles in 2012, it has always stayed closed for five months in the winters. They said the road usually gets closed in December, but at times earlier as well, and is only restored by the end of April or beginning of May the next year.
The Mughal Road cuts through the Hirpora wildlife sanctuary, affecting adversely the wildlife, but has helped small-scale businesses and trade in the two regions it connects. These businesses are severely hit when the road closes for five months in the winter.
An official said that because there is no separate mechanical division to look after Mughal Road, the work of snow clearance often gets delayed.
“As you know, our machinery is meant to clear the local roads till 15 March and once we complete that line, we start snow clearance from Mughal Rad by machines hired from Baramulla, Srinagar and Anantnag,” the official said.
The lack of a tunnel on the Mughal Road has prevented it from becoming an alternative highway that can connect Kashmir Valley with the rest of the country. According to road experts, a tunnel from Zaznad to Chattapani would make this road an all-weather road. This tunnel has been in the pipeline for long in the government’s plans but is yet to see any work begin.
Bilal Ahmad Sheikh, a shopkeeper based in Shopian, lamented that this road holds no importance for the people who are in power, whether in Srinagar or in Delhi.
“Five months is not a small period. Those who are doing business through this road become jobless for half a year. The government must look into the problems of people and should construct the much-awaited tunnel on this road,” he said.
Another local, Sameer Ahmad, who is a student at Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University at Rajouri, said that this road, when it is open, is a lifeline for students. “In summers we find it easy to reach home in Kashmir and go back to university easily. Once it gets closed, we don’t visit home,” he said.
According to an estimate sent to the central government by the J&K Roads and Buildings department, the construction of the tunnel would cost Rs 1200 crore. Sources said that despite being part of the Agenda of Alliance between the PDP and BJP when they formed the government in J&K in 2014, the construction of the tunnel was ignored by the central government.