'GoI Agrees To Fully Fund Mughal Road'

2 October 2009
Greater Kashmir
Muddasir Ali

Srinagar: In a significant development, the government of India has agreed to fully fund the construction of the long-awaited Mughal road, an alternative surface link to Kashmir. Coming up at a cost of Rs 639 crore, the 75-kilometer double-lane road would connect south Kashmir’s Shopian with Bafliaz in Jammu region’s Poonch district and is scheduled for completion in 2011. “The centre has agreed on cent per cent funding of the road and formal orders to the effect will be issued shortly,” the minister for Roads and Buildings, G M Saroori, told a press conference here. The Jammu and Kashmir government had to otherwise mobilize 50 per cent of the cost from other sources. Once completed, the prestigious road would be the shortest possible surface link between Kashmir and outside world. “The work on more than 64 kilometer stretch of the road has been completed and the remaining 20 kilometers will be completed soon,” Saroori said. At least, Rs 285 crore have already been spent on the project and an additional Rs 100 crore have to be allocated for the current fiscal, Saroori said. Though the project was scheduled for completion by 2007, it got delayed due to several reasons including financial and administrative. The revival of this historic five century-old route was also opposed by conservationists on the plea that it would disturb the habitat of the highly-endangered Markhor goat as the road was to pass through the Heerpura wildlife sanctuary, the habitat of the animal. Later, the Supreme Court intervened in the matter, giving a conditional go-ahead to the state government for the road construction. Officials said the work also got delayed as there were no ‘concrete plans’ for construction of bridges and RCC culverts coming up at several places. However, the minister said, all the formalities had been completed and out of 434 culverts, more than 200 had been completed. Besides, the department had invited tenders for construction of 17 bridges. The construction of an alternative road has gained importance over the years as the 300-km Jammu-Srinagar highway, currently the only motorable road linking the valley with outside world, has become highly vulnerable to landslides, avalanches and other natural calamities resulting in frequent closures, particularly during inclement weather. Officials said the government had mooted the upgrading of the Mughal Road in 1983. However, the project was shelved with the onset of armed struggle in Jammu and Kashmir. The work was resumed in October 2005. Experts said the historic road would end the decades of geographical isolation between Poonch, Rajouri and Kashmir and help boost the economy of the chronically neglected hilly areas of the Jammu region. It would also support greater inter-regional social, economic and cultural exchanges between the areas. ‘EUROPEAN TECHNOLOGY’ The minister said the government was mulling to adopt ‘cheaper and effective European Technology’ for construction of roads in the state. “As an experiment, the technology has been used in Budgam. If it withstands the harsh climatic condition, it would be used for road construction in rural areas,” Saroori said, adding the union ministry for surface transport had already approved it for JK. SOPS FOR ENGINEERS Saroori said the engineers who would complete the allotted works of this season in stipulated time would be rewarded with gold medals. “There will be silver and bronze medals for the engineers who will complete 90 per cent and 80 per cent of the work respectively,” the minister announced. FLYOVERS IN SRINAGAR, JAMMU The work on two fly-overs each in Srinagar and Jammu would be taken up with the start of next working season, Saroori said. “The projects will be taken up on priority to ease traffic congestion in the two capital cities,” he said.