JAMMU, July 24: The Central Government has approved eight new National Highways in strategically important Jammu and Kashmir, which would spread vast road network and improve road connectivity in the State, which has extremely poor road network. The new Highways would link pilgrimage towns of Katra and Reasi, the base camps of Mata Vaishno Devi ji and Shiv Khori shrine, Baltal and Pahalgam, the base camps of Shri Amarnath ji shrine, Akhnoor and Sudh Mahadev in Jammu, border towns of Zanskar and Leh in Ladakh region and backward towns of Kupwara and Tanghdar in Kashmir.
“The Centre Government has communicated its approval to the State Government on construction of new Highways in Jammu and Kashmir. It will be 100 per cent Central funding for the Highway projects, which will be constructed by the National Highway Authority of India,” official sources told the Excelsior.
Three new Highways each have been approved for Jammu and Kashmir regions and two for Ladakh.
Three new Highways approved in Jammu included Domail-Katra-Reasi-Pouni, which has been named as NH No. 144, Jammu-Akhnoor-Nowshera-Rajouri-Poonch, which has been named as NH No. 144-A and Batote-Chenani-Sudh Mahadev-Khelani-Doda-Kishtwar-Synthan-Khanabal, which will be called as NH No. 244.
Two new Highways approved in Ladakh region are Kargil-Zanskar in Kargil district, which has been named as NH No. 301 and Leh-Debring-Mulden in Leh district, which has been named as NH No. 3.
Three new Highways approved for the Kashmir valley are Baramulla-Rafiabad-Kupwara-Tanghdar, which has been named as NH No. 701, Baltal-Panchtarni-Chandanwari-Pahalgam-Batakut-Martand-Khanabal, which has been named as NH No. 501 and Srinagar-Shopian-Qazigund, which will be called as NH No. 444.
Sources said the new Highways have been approved after a study spanning over six months to improve road infrastructure in pilgrim and border towns and backward areas of the State, where there was very poor road network and existing roads were unable to cater to ever increasing vehicular movement.
Domail-Katra-Reasi-Pouni road was in worst condition notwithstanding the fact that Katra and Reasi attract huge rush of pilgrims, which sometimes touch to as high as 35,000 to 40,000 per day for Mata Vaishno Devi ji shrine (in Katra) and Shiv Khori shrine (in Reasi). Sources said if the State Government constructs link road between Pouni to Bhambla, the upcoming Highway will directly connect to Rajouri and Poonch.
Similarly, Jammu-Akhnoor-Nowshera-Rajouri-Poonch Highway could also link to Srinagar via Mughal Road if the existing road between Poonch to Bafliaz is widened. Though the Centre has already declared widening of Jammu-Akhnoor road, the granting of National Highway status to it would mean that the State Government didn’t have to incur any expenditure on it.
Batote-Chenani-Sudh Mahadev-Khelani-Doda-Kishtwar-Synthan-Khanabal Highway has become need of the hour following report by the Geological experts that existing Batote-Kishtwar Highway won’t survive long and would become part of the history due to sinking road.
Similarly, sources said, Kargil-Zanskar and Leh-Debring-Mulden National Highways in Ladakh region would go long way in strengthening road network in hilly, backward and border areas of the region. The Centre has been trying hard to take road network to the areas bordering China and Pakistan in Ladakh. The declaration of two more Highways in the region was part of the strategic plan.
Sources said Kupwara and Tanghdar areas in the Kashmir valley had extremely bad poor network and linking them with National Highway from Baramulla and Rafiabad will connect the towns to Srinagar.
The National Highway No. 501 which would connect Baltal-Panchtarni-Chandanwari-Pahalgam-Batkut-Martand-Khanabal comprised mostly the pilgrim towns of Shri Amarnath ji shrine while Martand has historic religious significance for the people.
According to sources, the Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) of some of the Highways is ready while the Centre has asked the State Government to prepare DPRs of other Highways and immediately send them to the Centre for funding and start of the work.
“The Centre wants to complete work on the Highways as early as possible to improve and strengthen road network in the State,” sources said, adding since all these roads have been declared as National Highways, the Centre will bear entire cost of their construction.
The previous UPA regime had also proposed some of the roads as the Highways earlier but work was never taken up on them. The BJP-led NDA Government has included those Highways in its list and would start work on them immediately after the DPRs are approved.