Describing connectivity as a prerequisite for bolstering economic growth, Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, Tuesday called for more effective coordination between different agencies so that work on various prestigious road projects in the state is carried forward with greater urgency.
She said constructing roads on rugged terrain in a hilly state like J&K is a daunting task for which she sought Centre’s active support in removing hurdles coming in the way of completion of these projects.
The Chief Minister made these remarks today, while chairing a high-level meeting to review the progress of work on National Highways in the state.
The review comes in the backdrop of her meeting with Union Road Transport & Highways Minister, Nitin Gadkari, in New Delhi earlier this month.
Besides Minister for Public Works (R&B) & Parliamentary Affairs, A. R. Veeri, the meeting was also attended by Minister for I&C, Chander Parkash Ganga, Minister of State for S&T, Transport and R&B, Sunil Kumar Sharma, Chief Secretary, B. R. Sharma, Financial Commissioner, Planning & Development, B. B. Vyas and Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, Navin K. Chaudhary.
Stressing upon factoring in physical and topographical issues while framing road projects, the Chief Minister highlighted the difficult challenges confronting Kashmir valley on account of hostile climatic conditions as well as constraints on the law-and-order front, which she said hamper the already-limited working season. She, however, described as unacceptable the delay in timely-completion of projects in Jammu region, where working season is much longer and the general atmosphere very positive.
“Even in Chenab valley, we have a very limited working season, keeping in view the hilly terrain and difficulty in moving men and machinery,” she said, while also stressing upon assessing the contractors’ capacity to deliver projects on time.
Mehbooba Mufti urged all connected State government departments to work in unison and resolve pending issues with the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH) so that both sides are on the same page. She observed that while work on new alignments goes on, the maintenance of existing alignments of national highways, in particular Jammu-Srinagar National Highway, should not be ignored.
“Our tourist season has already begun and Amarnath Yatra is in the offing. The maintenance of certain critical stretches on Jammu-Srinagar National Highway is of vital importance as poor condition of roads results in frequent accidents, putting the lives of people in grave danger,” she added.
The Chief Minister placed high priority on deployment of additional men and machinery on maintenance of existing alignment of Srinagar-Qazigund Road, keeping in view the difficulties faced by the people, who struggle to reach Srinagar in cases of emergencies. She also expressed concern over slow progress achieved on Banihal-Qazigund and Qazigund-Srinagar road stretches where only 50 per cent work has been completed.
Briefing the Chief Minister about the status of ongoing works, PWD Secretary, Rohit Kansal, said around 96 per cent of all land acquisition cases have been completed. He added that an amount of Rs.42,668 crore have been sanctioned under PM’s Development Package – TAMIER (The Aggressive Micro Economic and Infrastructure Rebuilding), which include 12 major roads, three mega tunnels and Ring Road projects for the two Capital Cities.
The R&B Secretary, while briefing the Chief Minister, said four new projects which include Kargil-Zanskar, Srinagar-Shopian-Qazigund, Jammu-Akhnoor-Poonch and Chenani-Sudhmahadev-Goha roads (along with 3-km tunnel) will be constructed at a cost of Rs.13,300 crore.
Similarly, he said tunnels at Zojila, Lachulunga and Taglang Passes, being constructed at a cost of Rs.14,900 crore, will boost connectivity to Ladakh region. “Another Rs.3,260 crore will be spent on semi-ring road projects in Srinagar and Jammu under TAMIER,” he added.
On Ring Roads for Jammu & Srinagar cities, the Chief Minister was informed that while MoRTH will fund the entire construction, the state government will spent only 10 per cent of the cost related to land acquisition and utility shifting. Earlier, MoRTH had proposed 75:25 pattern for LA and shifting of utilities.
The Chief Minister ordered respective Divisional Commissioners to follow up land acquisition proceedings once NHAI (National Highway Authority of India) places indents with respective DCs.
On Batote-Kishtwar-Sinthan Pass-Khanabal Road, which is to be upgraded to two lanes, it was given out that the work has been entrusted to NHICDL (National Highway and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited). A new alignment at Chenani-Sudhmahadev-Goha-Khellani has also been proposed and for the construction of a tunnel at Singhpora-Vailoo Road, the matter has been taken up with MoRTH fo external funding.
Meanwhile, Rs. 90 crore is expected from the Union Ministry for maintenance of the road while Rs.3 crore has already been spent in minor repairs, the meeting was informed.
The R&B Minister observed that keeping in view the deteriorating condition of the existing Batote-Doda-Kishtwar Road, the Chenani-Sudhmahadev-Goha-Khellani Road has assumed vital significance.
The Chief Minister was informed that a new National Highway – Uri-Baramulla-Srinagar-Kargil-Leh – has been carved out of Old NH-IA and presently the road is with BRO, except Z-Morh and Zojila tunnels which are with MoRTH. “Z-Morh tunnel is expected to be completed by April 30, 2020 at a cost of Rs.2680.42 crore while as the process of re-tendering 14-km Zojila Tunnel at a cost of Rs.9090 crore has been initiated by MoRTH,” PWD secretary told the Chief Minister.
The Chief Minister was informed that a proposal has already been sent to MoRTH for declaring Mughal Road as an alternate national highway to boost connectivity between Jammu and Kashmir divisions. She was also informed by MoRTH officers present in the meeting about fresh resurfacing of road stretch from Chenani to Patnitop, which is in a poor condition.
The Chief Minister stressed that the matter be prioritized along with the component of construction of tunnel which will make Mughal Road an all-weather road.
The status of other National Highways reviewed by the Chief Minister included Kargil-Zanskar, Baramulla-Rafiabad-Kupwara-Tangdhar, Leh-Debring-Mulden-Manali and Baltal-Panjtarni-Chandanwari-Pahalgam-Batkoot-Martand-Khanabal.
While briefing the Chief Minister about the physical progress of four-lanning of Jammu-Srinagar National Highway, the PWD Secretary said work on Jammu-Udhampur section has been almost completed and around 85 per cent progress has been achieved on Chenani-Nashri section and the work is expected to be completed by May this year. This, he said will reduce the distance between Jammu and Srinagar by 30 km.
“The work on Udhampur-Ramban and Ramban-Banihal sections has just started and are expected to be completed by 2018,” he said, adding all projects started in 2011 are scheduled to be completed this year.
On speedy clearance of land acquisition cases, which was raised by MoRTH, the Chief Minister was informed that out of 21,677 kanals of land to be acquired, 20,843 kanals have already been handed over for which Rs.750.41 crore have been disbursed as compensation. He said there are still nine land acquisition cases pending with the department for which an additional amount of Rs.190.82 crore is required for payment of compensation.
The Chief Minister directed the Divisional Commissioners to look into the issue and settle all pending cases on priority.
On the vital issue of maintenance of deteriorated patches on Jammu-Srinagar National Highway, especially critical stretches at Patnitop, Nashri, Ramban and Banihal, the Chief Minister asked the concerned executing agencies to mobilize men and machinery as sliding and choking of drains breaks down traffic, causing lot of inconvenience to the commuters.
On expediting forest clearances for laying of new roads, the Chief Minister was informed that these stand cleared by FAC (Forest Advisory Committee) and will be submitted before the Cabinet for approval. As regards safeguarding environment, the Forest Secretary highlighted the need for having proper dumping sites at identified places to minimize damage to the forests.
Regarding projects taken up under Bharat Mala for boosting connectivity to tourist destinations and Inter-State Connectivity Scheme, the Chief Minister was informed that bids have been invited and the projects will be allotted shortly.
The Chief Minister asked the Chief Secretary to coordinate so that departmental bottlenecks, in particular related to setting up of toll plazas, are removed in a time-bound manner.
Also present in the meeting were Financial Commissioner Revenue, Pramod Jain, Principal Secretary Forests, Rakesh Gupta, Principal Secretary, Home, R. K. Goyal, Principal Secretary, Power, Dheeraj Gupta, Commissioner / Secretary, I&C, Shailendra Kumar, Commissioner / Secretary, Revenue, M. Afzal Bhat, Divisional Commissioners, Dr. Pawan Kotwal and Asgar Hassan Samoon and Chief Engineers of R&B, PMGSY and Mughal Road Project.
The Central government was represented by A.K. Gupta, GM, NHICDL, R. P. Singh, Regional Officer, NHAI, V. S. Khera, Member PPP, MHA and senior functionaries of BRO, BRTF, Project Sampark and Project BEACON in the meeting.