Expansion plan abandoned, no alternate routes developed
Anantnag: Khannabal bridge, the most vital connection between parts of Anantnag and the rest of the valley, apart from being the only link to some major hospitals and tourist destinations, remains plagued with traffic mess throughout the day, every single day.
While Anantnag city and the peripheries in the district have grown exponentially, including the traffic, the Khannabal Bridge has not seen any upgrade.
“As a result, there is a traffic mess almost always on the bridge. What should have been a two-minute drive often turns out to be a half-an-hour grind, no matter what day of the week it is or what time of the day,” locals that Kashmir Reader talked to said.
This bridge not only connects parts of Anantnag district with each other but is also the only route to and from the Government Medical College (GMC) Anantnag, as well as the Maternity and Child Care Hospital and many other smaller government and private hospitals in the area.
“People from across south Kashmir throng Anantnag town for healthcare and other needs, making the traffic inflow humungous,” the locals said. “It is a pain for everyone to cross the bridge, whether they are trying to reach a hospital or are trying to make it out of Anantnag to other parts of the valley.”
People say that often ambulances can be seen stuck over the bridge, with no way out.
The bridge is also vital when it comes to tourism and/or the annual Amarnath Yatra, wherein thousands drive towards Pahalgam.
“It becomes a hell hole, especially during the Yatra season or tourist movement. It can take you hours to cross this 50-meter or so bridge in such times,” the locals lamented.
Remedies are available, in form of alternate routes and expansion of the bridge, but none is being taken seriously by the administration. A project to expand the bridge was taken up some five years back but there has been no headway into it and the work has remained more or less abandoned.
Kashmir Reader talked to Executive Engineer, Roads and Buildings Department, Javed Qazi, to know the status of the project. Qazi said that the contractor of the project has abandoned it for now.
“He is arguing that he has taken up the project some four years ago, and wants an escalation in the project cost. For now, the things remain in a deadlock, as the case is pending with the chief engineer,” Qazi told Kashmir Reader.
Apart from the expansion of the bridge, there are at least two alternate routes that could have been developed to ease the traffic on this bridge. “The Muniward road, via Nathopora, is one such route. All traffic from Kulgam or Jammu could have been diverted through that route. Also, the Uranhall route through Sepin village could have been developed and some major traffic diversion will have taken place,” the locals told Kashmir Reader.
The administration, as per sources, is yet to consider any of the two routes as possible alternatives. “There has been a lack of will on part of the administration. Otherwise, this is not an issue that should have lingered so long,” a source in the administration told Kashmir Reader.
Kashmir Reader tried talking to Deputy Commissioner (DC) Anantnag, Dr Piyush Singla, but the official did not attend to the phone call made by this reporter.