Delay in acquisition hampers work on Barbar Shah bridge, road project

Adil Lateef

Under construction Barbarshah bridge.
Under construction Barbarshah bridge.

Srinagar, Feb 3: Due to delay in land acquisition, the work on construction of new 27-meter double lane Barbar Shah bridge and expansion of road till Naqashpora here in Srinagar has been severely affected.
The new Barbar Shah bridge was proposed to be constructed at the same place where present SRTC bridge exists which, however, is old and has less width. The work on the project was started in March 2011 during National Conference-Congress coalition Government at the estimated cost of Rs 3.31 crore.
A top official of the Jammu and Kashmir Projects Construction Company (JKPCC) – the executing agency – told Excelsior that so far only a wooden footbridge has been constructed near the proposed site. He said the telephone cables and water pipeline that existed on the SRTC Bridge were diverted through the newly constructed wooden bridge but due to delay in land acquisition from both the ends, the work on the project couldn’t be carried on. The official said out of Rs 3.31 crore, the Government released Rs 0.70 crore so far.
The major obstruction so far in the construction of the Bridge and also the road expansion is delay in land acquisition. According to sources, the concerned Roads and Buildings (R&B) Department are supposed to acquire eight houses and 23 shops while some portion of a local mosque is also to be acquired. “The owners of shops and houses and local mosque committee has given in writing that they are ready for giving away the property in lieu of proper rehabilitation,” they said.
Also, the existing SRTC Bridge constructed 42 years ago is in dilapidated condition. The Bridge is made up of wooden logs while ‘Choant Kul’ – a tributary of Jhelum River – flows beneath. The locals of the area have been from long insisting that it is unsafe for traffic and should be closed for heavy vehicles.
A local shopkeeper of Barbar Shah said that the Government post-September 2014 floods asked them and house owners not to repair their structures in view of the project. “But neither our shops and houses are being acquired nor are we being allowed to repair. This is depressing situation,” he said. When asked about the reason that Government is citing, he said: “sometime they say there are no funds and sometimes they say we will start the work soon.”
Officials speaking to Excelsior on the condition of anonymity said the Barbar Shah bridge and road expansion project is “very vital” as it will not only make road from Regal Chowk to Naqashpora through but will also reduce the traffic jams in the area that has become routine occurrence. The Barbar Shah is also connecting area between Srinagar’s Old City and Civil Line areas and witnesses movement of all kinds of vehicles including those of tourists.
When contacted, a senior official of the R&B Department while admitting that there has been delay in the land acquisition told Excelsior that the process is underway as of now. “Indeed there has been delay in the land acquisition and that’s why the project couldn’t take off but we are on it,” he said. On the other side, local lawmaker, Shameema Firdous claimed that the Government has sidelined the project.