Srinagar, Jan 1: The Government has failed to complete ambitious Syed Mirak Shah Road Project (SMSRP) – that spans over 10.33 kilometers – in Srinagar due to delay in land acquisition and also lack of funds even as the work on the project was started 20 years ago.
In the year 1996, the then Public Works Department (R&B) Minister, Ali Mohammad Sagar, laid the foundation stone of the project and simultaneously the work was started from Naseem Bagh junction. The 10.33 kilometers’ Syed Mirak Shah Road Project consists of areas including Dalgate, Nowpora, Khayam, Khanyar Victory Crossing, Rainawari, Zindshah Masjid, Kathi Darwaza, Saida Kadal, Ashai Bagh, Nigeen Club, Hazratbal, Habak and Gulab Bagh.
According to official figures, the R&B Department has had to acquire 336 structures, 750 shops, 145 kanals and 500 plots. However, so far, the cases involving 177 structures, 302 shops, 29 kanals and 110 plots have only been settled. The acquisition cost is estimated at Rs 336 crore which, however, in year 1996 was only Rs 93 crore but due to delay in acquisition the burden on State exchequer has increased manifold.
Admitting that there has been delay in land acquisition, Chief Engineer of R&B Kashmir, Abdul Hameed Sheikh, told Excelsior that the land acquisition is very hectic and time consuming process which can take further 3 to 4 years time. “It is a cumbersome job but we are doing our best to complete the process. We have assigned the job of land acquisition to a competent Superintending Engineer (SE) but it will take us 3-4 years to complete the process,” he said.
The Chief Engineer while admitting the importance of the SMSRP in city said: “We have completed the work on four-lanning of Ashai Bagh Bridge to Nigeen and Hazratbal to Habak and we ourselves are witnessing how important the project is. At present the work on land acquisition from Baba Daramdas to Rainawari via Konakhan is underway,” he said, adding that so far Rs 56 crore have been spent on land acquisition and Rs 15 crore is liability.
Sources said not only land acquisition is the major bottleneck in the project but also lack of funds and poor coordination between various departments and stakeholders including Planning and Development, LAWDA, Power Development Department, Srinagar Municipal Corporation, Revenue, PHE, Srinagar Development Author-ity, Town planning organization and Finance Department. “There should have been single window system of all these departments in order to complete the various formalities in land acquisition but there is no proper coordination at all, resulting in delay,” they said.
Citing example of patch from Saida Kadal-Ashai Bagh Bridge, the sources said huge chunk of land that is supposed to be acquired by R&B needs No Objection Certificate (NOC) from LAWDA but due to lack of coordination the acquisition is not happening till date despite of the fact that the road patch is vital in terms of location as it leads to revered Hazratbal Shrine, Kashmir University and National Institute of Technology (NIT).
The timely rehabilitation of shopkeepers and land compensation to house owners are also a reason for the delay in the project. Besides, multiple cases of affected house owners are also pending in courts, the sources said, adding that with regard to rehabilitation of shopkeepers and house-owners near Rainawari Chowk, the Divisio-nal Commissioner Kashmir, Baseer Ahmad Khan, chaired a high-level committee meeting.
Sources pointed out that only eight to nine houses from Khayam via Victor Crossing upto Rainawari Chowk are to be acquired but the concerned department has failed even to do so. The acquisition, if done, would make the four-lanning of Dalgate junction upto Rainwari Chowk possible.
With the failure of successive regimes to complete the SMSRP, the proposal to construct flyover from Rainawari junction upto Kathi Darwaza has also been dumped. The stretch is highly congested and has become accident prone. “The flyover construction would be possible by involving modern technology without even touching the graveyard area there,” the sources said.
The R&B Chief Engineer said they are trying to acquire more and more funds from the Government but maintained that there is no shortage of the capital. “The project costs Rs 93 crore (apart from land acquisition) and so far the expenditure is Rs 7 crore. The Government is ready to fund us since it is a liberal project but the major bottleneck is land acquisition process,” he added.