Srinagar-Banihal four laning highay misses another deadline


SRINAGAR: The work over the Srinagar-Jammu national highway has been going on at a sluggish pace and has been delayed due to the bottlenecks in acquisition of land and rugged terrain.

Both on the Banihal-Ramban section and Srinagar-Qazigund stretch the work has been delayed. The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has revised many deadlines on the 66-kilometer Srinagar-Banihal stretch. The pace of work also on the 36-kilometer long Banihal-Ramban stretch is also slow.

The Srinagar-Banihal portion of Srinagar-Jammu national highway has witnessed only 69.38 percent of work in last over six years. The work on 66.7 kilometer long road was started in 2011 and its initial deadline was 2014. However, the project which was allotted to Hyderabad-based construction company Ramky Infrastructure by National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has missed four deadlines so far and the latest deadline was June 2016. Official documents of the Public Works Department (PWD) reveal that the physical progress of the project was 69.38 percent in September and was only 68 percent in June.

The Qazigund-Banihal sub-section of Srinagar-Banihal road was only 66.70 percent complete by September end and several issues are hampering the work progress of the project, according to official documents.

 “The acquisition of land for relocation of 132 KV electricity transmission tower is under process. Frequent restrictions by traffic police on the movement of trailers, carrying project material from Jammu to Banihal, affected the project progress,” reveal the documents.

The Qazigund-Banihal stretch has also two tunnels which are each 8.5 km long. Recently, Minister for Public Works department, Nayeem Akhter, inaugurated first section of the four-lanning project from Lasjan bypass to Gallander. However, only two lanes are operational and the work is still going on other two lanes of road. The latest progress of the work was that on Qazigund bypass out of total of 3. 85 km construction was completed on 3 Kms. On Bijbehara bypass from 12.7 km the work was completed on 10 km, on Awantipora bypass from 7.34 km work has been finished on 4 km. Officials attribute the delay to the court cases against the acquisition of land.

General Manager, NHAI for Srinagar-Ramban section, Vipin Sharma said they were earlier expecting completion of Srinagar-Qazigund road stretch by December but that has expired. He said “The physical work progress of the project is 72 percent. We are trying to make the Srinagar-Qazigund four-lane road operational as soon as possible. Only in case of adverse weather conditions, the work can get delayed,” he added.

He said the alignment for the Banihal “bypass around 2.5 km has been changed in view of floods and geographical conditions and it will be possibly completed next year.” The bypass project has been set for completion in December 2018. The alignment and style of this 2.5 km Banihal bypass was completely changed. On the road we are constructing three bridges over 1.5 km,” Sharma said.

Of the road the 65 km Jammu-Udhampur four-lane was completed in 2014 and 9.2 km Chenani-Nashtri tunnel was finished in March this year. The highway after its completion would ease travel distance from Srinagar to Jammu and also reduce mishaps.

On the Banihal-Ramban stretch, a new deadline of mid-2019 has been now set. As per official documents of PWD the work on the project is going on at snail’s pace with nearly 4.3 percent complete so far. “The latest physical process of the project is 4.3 percent,” official documents reveal. In June the work on road stretch remained grounded with only 3.13 percent completed. Difficulties in land acquisition have hit the project.

 “The proceedings for land acquisition (20 hectare) in two villages—Seri and Marog- were quashed by the court with directions to complete fresh land acquisition proceedings within four months. The land possession was not yet handed over to NHAI/contractor,” documents reveal. There are 142 structures yet to be removed along the road out of 199.

The road up gradation was mooted as the landslides and stone shooting hamper the connectivity to Kashmir most of times during winter months.

Four lanning from Ramban to Banihal section will comprise two by-passes (Seri and Makerkot), six major and 21 minor bridges, 152 culverts, seven pedestrian/cattle underpasses and six tunnels with total length of 2967.50 meters. The work contract is executed by Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) Ltd.

On Udhampur-Ramban four-laning stretch, which started simultaneously with Ramban to Banihal section 25 percent of work has been completed so far.

As per official documents the High Court had quashed the land acquisition proceedings for seven villages (area 50 hectare) on 6 October 2016 with directions to complete fresh acquisition within four months. “Around 5.5 Km of project length was affected as the land has been partially handed over to executing agency and possession of remaining land was to be expedited,” documents reveal.

NHAI project director Jammu section, MT Attarde, said the work on Udhampur-Ramban stretch was 28 percent complete. He admitted that there was land acquisition issue at Nashri-Ramban section.

 “There was a legal issue in acquisition for Nashri-Ramban section that is why the land could not be handed over to executing agency (EA),” Attarde said. The deadline for this section is December 2018. “Due to land issue, the project completion could get delayed to around six months,” he said.

With the inauguration of Bijbhehra- Islamabad stretch, the vehicles will cover around 2 km less distance to reach Islamabad and will also minimize the traffic jams in the Bijbhehra town.

The four-lane highway comprises of five sections— Qazigund Bypass, Bijbehara Bypass Awantipora Bypass, Pampore Bypass and widening of existing highway.

Earlier in the month of October, Pampore bypass stretch was thrown open for the public.

On the occasion, Veeri stressed on better coordination and teamwork of different departments for speedy and better quality work under different government schemes.

With total cost of Rs 1103 crore, the length of Srinagar-Banihal roadway is 67.76 kilometers and it unlike Jammu-Udhampur or Banihal-Udhampur patches has no hilly terrain but despite of this the deadlines were missed for which Ramky has faced severe criticism. Once completed, the four-laning will help in overcoming traffic jams on National Highway and would reduce travel distance considerably to Banihal from Srinagar. (GNS)