J&K Highway To Be Envy Of The World
4 May 2005
The Indian Express
Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir's lifeline Srinagar-Jammu national highway, which turns into a virtual death trap during winters, could become one of the best mountain roads in the world like the Trans-Alpine highway if only the government is ready to invest it in a big way. Known as Banihal Cart road before being renamed, it used to remain closed for three to four months every year earlier. But since the construction of 2.5-km Jawahar tunnel and subsequent taking over of its maintenance by Border Roads Organisation, better known as Project Beacons in 1965, the closure period has been drastically reduced, the average during the last decade being three to four weeks. This is a major improvement but the closure of the lifeline as the only surface link between Kashmir and rest of the country for nearly a month due to unprecedented snowfall in February this year has highlighted the vulnerability of the road. In winter, the highway receives heavy snowfall while in March, July and August, it is lashed by rains. A 39-km stretch between Ramban and Banihal falls in seismic zone and is prone to frequent earthquakes and a slight rainfall in the area often causes massive landslides. According to officials of Forest Department, measures like afforestation of hills along the road and channelisation of water have helped in controlling the landslides to a certain extent. The state government launched 'Save Ramban' project in 1994 soon after a big tragedy struck the highway claiming over 60 lives when passenger buses got stranded on the highway because of snowfall.