Centre rushes NHAI chairman, wants J&K projects to be expedited

Excelsior Correspondent

JAMMU, Feb 26: Conce-rned over delay in execution of some of the projects and opening of India’s longest road tunnel between Chenani and Nashri, National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) chairman Yudhvir Singh Malik along with top brass of the Authority will tomorrow hold a very high level review of major projects in Jammu and Kashmir with NHAI officials including Project Directors and State Gover-nment officials.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had recently taken up with Union Road and Surface Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari the need to expedite work on Jammu-Srinagar and Batote-Kishtwar National Highways, where some portions have become accident prone and were witnessing huge traffic jams.
Official sources told the Excelsior that the NHAI chairman was scheduled to personally visit 9.2 kilometers long Chenani-Nashri tunnel and parts of Jammu-Srinagar National Highway tomorrow during his two-day visit here to review the projects, expedite the works and ensure their early completion.
He will review progress on the projects taken up by the NHAI especially Jammu-Srinagar and Batote-Kishtwar National Highways, where traffic disturbances have become order of the day especially during disturbed weather conditions, leading to suspension of vehicular movement many a times.
The Chenani-Nashri tunnel, which is India’s longest road tunnel and will reduce distance between Chenani and Nashri from 44 kilometers to 9.2 kilometers, is ready but, according to reports, slight problem of oxygen has cropped up, leading to delay in its inauguration.
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to inaugurate the tunnel, the NHAI wants to be completely satisfied about its safety before giving green signal for inauguration. It was in view of the safety measures that the NHAI chief would himself review the safety measures, order corrective steps, if required, and finalize date by when the project can be inaugurated.
Union Road and Surface Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari has assigned the task of finalizing inauguration of tunnel scheduled to Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Dr Jitendra Singh, who represents the constituency in Lok Sabha.
Admitting that Chenani-Nashri tunnel is very prestigious project not only for the NHAI or for the Surface Transport Ministry but entire country, sources said the authorities want to be fully sure about its safety in view of large traffic, which the tunnel was expected to witness, before its inauguration by the Prime Minister.
They said the schedule on inauguration of the tunnel was likely to be finalized only after the NHAI chairman’s on spot visit to the tunnel, review of works and corrective measures required to overcome slight hurdles being faced in its launch. The tunnel has been constructed at an estimated cost of over Rs 2500 crores.
Sources said delay in widening of Jammu-Srinagar and Batote-Kishtwar National Highways was also cause of concern for the NHAI as the twin projects had figured in the discussion Mehbooba Mufti had with Nitin Gadkari recently as it was hampering tourism in the Valley and affecting local people as well, who, many a times, are trapped for hours together due to bad shape of the Highway between Ramban and Banihal and ahead.
According to sources, the NHAI would focus on immediate repair and widening of trouble prone stretches of the twin National Highway. At the same time, it would expedite work on widening of the National Highways between Ramban and Banihal, Udhampur and Chenani, Banihal and Qazigund etc.
The Central Government has made it clear that widening of Jammu-Srinagar National Highway is a strategic project and funds were no constraints for it. Already the Union Ministry has released funds for repair as well as widening of the two projects.
An alternate National Highway between Batote and Doda passing through Sudh Mahadev and Pul Doda has already been approved, the survey work on which was going on.
The Union Road and Surface Transport Ministry had recently released Rs 100 crore for repair work on Batote-Kishtwar National Highway to make it fit for traffic in all weather conditions.