Jammu: Strange as it may sound, but the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) does not maintain data on the closure of Jammu-Srinagar national highway due to landslides, shooting of stones and snowfall in any calendar year.
This is notwithstanding the fact that frequent closure of highway during rainy season and winters puts thousands of commuters and tourists travelling to Kashmir Valley via Jammu and vice-versa in umpteen hardships, besides it also hits supply chain of essentials to Kashmir Valley and Ladakh UT adversely.
“Such data is not available in this PIU. No specific details are available in terms of shooting stones, landslides and blockades,” says NHAI while responding to an RTI application seeking information about the number of days and hours for which Jammu-Srinagar highway remained closed for traffic due to landslides, shooting of stones and snowfall.
The NHAI, however, claims that road clearance after shooting stone and slides are done by the contractor company without claiming extra money against road clearance work, as it comes under their scope of agreement to maintain the highway in traffic worthy condition during construction period.
“However, during the termination period in Ramban-Banihal section Rs. 0.69 crore has been spent as hire charges of machineries deployed for road clearance work,” it says.
Over the expenditure made by the NHAI on the maintenance on Jammu-Srinagar highway national since it was handed over to it by Border Roads Organisation (BRO), the executing agency says, “The part of Jammu-Srinagar Highway pertaining to this office is under construction phase (except Chenani-Nashri Tunnel package) and all the maintenance will be done by EPC contractor as per CA (Contract Agreement)”.
“The Chenani-Nashri tunnel package has been constructed on DBFOT (Design, Built, Finance, Operate and Transfer) basis hence its maintenance is done by the contractor company as per CA. However, during the termination period in the Ramban-Banihal section, Rs 21 crore were spent on maintenance (overlaying) work,” it adds.
Pertinently, the ambitious four-laning of Jammu-Srinagar national highway has cost the exchequer dearly as two treacherous stretches—Udhampur-Ramban section and Ramban-Banihal sector–along the road have recorded 100 percent cost overrun. The highway users will have to wait till 2025 for the completion of the project which was scheduled to be completed by 2016 at the time of its start.
The NHAI has been facing the major challenge of completing Ramban-Banihal stretch due to difficult terrain and less working space. A total of 14 tunnels are being constructed on the 79-km-long Udhampur-Banihal stretch comprising three tunnels between Udhampur and Ramban section and 11 along Ramban-Banihal stretch to ensure all-weather road connectivity.
The proposed tunnels will be built to ensure safe journey on the highway, particularly Ramban-Banihal sector. This stretch witnesses recurrent incidents of landslides, shooting stones and accidents.