Jammu Ropeway, a dream visualized three decades back and conceptualized in 1995 but still to be fulfilled and the journey right from the starting has been full of hurdles. Initially conceived from Mubarak Mandi to Bahu Fort but both these structures being declared protected monuments as such project was relocated to Peer Kho to Maha Maya and from Maha Maya to near Bahu Fort.
But the problems didn’t stop here as to acquire the proposed land required for the project was itself most tedious part, land at Bahu Fort was private and the concerned filed a case in the court which went on for years together before being disposed of in favour of the project, land at Peer Kho was of temple and compensation issues cropped up which were ultimately amicably settled and third chunk of 2.83 hectares, the toughest one, belonged to forest – in fact part of Bahu Conservation Reserve as such required a must permission from Standing Committee of National Board of Wildlife, Ministry of Environment and Wild Life and Supreme Court of India from national level and various other committees at state level. Factually all these permissions were granted after an EIA/EMP (Environmental Impact Assessment/ Environment Management Plan) audit with Jammu University as consultant and ultimately persistent efforts of all for so many years paid off and the project started to take its modern shape after long delays and hiccups.
Jammu Ropeway has two sections right now, Section-I from Peer Kho to Maha Maya and Section II from Maha Maya to Bahu Fort. Section I is 1184 mts horizontally with a vertical rise of 86.3 mts , detachable monocable with a speed of 4 m/s, with 7 towers and 14 cabins of 6 persons each with a 100 KW motor and main drive station at Maha Maya. Similarly section II is 485 mts horizontally with a vertical rise of 9.35 mts, monocable pulsed system with a speed of 4.5 m/s with 2 towers and 8 cabins of 6 persons each with a 100 KW motor with main drive at Maha Maya only. Detachable monocable cabins enable cabins to detach at both drive and return stations to run on rails on tyres whereas pulsed monocable allows cabins to move with rope only as such once cabin enters return stations speed gets reduced to almost standstill to get passengers off the cabin. Both these sections run mainly on mains power but standby generators are already installed at Maha Maya station but in case of somehow failure of both mains power and generators a special engine has been fitted on the main drive through which cabins can be made to return to the stations. Initially horizontal-independent rescue system was installed between Maha Maya and Bahu Fort to rescue visitors in case of any emergency but the freak incident in February in which rescue trolley tilted during trial run in which 2 persons lost their lives due to sheer negligence as SOPs were totally ignored by contractors work force after office hours like no permission from J&K State Cable Car Corporation to run the Ropeway at that time, persons riding the trolley exceeding the recommended capacity of 2 and that too without fastening harnesses to overhead ropeway. Just to make the rescue more robust vertical (imported game system) rescue system has been implemented on both sections in which passengers are evacuated with the help of specially designed equipment through which a person is lowered vertically on the ground below or newly acquired rescue boat in case of water below the ropeway cabin. RITES is the project management consultant and Damodar Ropeway and Infra Limited is the company assigned and executing this project which is the same company running Shri Mata Vaishno Devi ropeway also. It is very important to mention that this project is a HYBRID Project right on ‘Make in India’ dream and ambition of our PM Modi and as such though technical collaboration is with foreign concern but major parts of this project are indigenously manufactured in India only with state of the art technology and equipment conforming to specifications stipulated in not only in the B.I.S but also following European norms related to the safety of the passengers with the resultant huge savings on cost factor unlike Patnitop or Gulmarg projects where whole equipment used is imported. Right now Cable Corporation is successfully operating trial runs of the ropeway everyday as directed by Advisor to Governor. Flab ticketing machines along with server are already installed for online ticket bookings. Other infrastructure of Jammu Ropeway includes three restaurants and three Kids Zone, one each at Peer Kho, Maha Maya and Bahu Fort, toilets, sprawling lawns and pine trees at Maha Maya along the specially constructed pathway leading to Maha Maya Temple just adding to the mesmerizing experience of the tourists. Two decks at Bahu Fort site are providing unique and scenic view of old city and Bahu Fort Forest Reserve. Cable Corporation has built up its own approach road along with sufficient parking facilities at main Bahu Fort site.
But despite these efforts of Jammu and Kashmir Cable Corporation to get this seventy five crore dream come true, thirty two crore spent on ropeway and rest forty three on infrastructure, land acquisition and other expenses to different departments like PDD, PHE, revenue, J&K Tourism there are still numerous official hurdles which are unnecessarily delaying the operationalization of Jammu Ropeway. First of all Committee with members from Mechanical Engineering Department, R&B, PDD and Cable Corporation is supposed to give final inspection report, but this inspection is going on since January 2019, much before the rescue trolley accident. However, till date even after lapse of almost ten months the said report is still elusive with concerned departments unable to give any logical reasoning for the inordinate delay. Report can finally give its consent or refusal to project or some suggestions to be incorporated before starting the operations but just sitting on the report for more than ten months in indecisive state speaks about the factual state of affairs of Jammu and Kashmir. Another burning issue is water supply, as per initial DPR, water supply for toilets, restaurants, gardening and for other utilities of Ropeway is supposed to be provided by PHE but PHE with existing resources cannot cater to peak demand at Maha Maya and Bahu Fort site as such digging of a new bore is the only way out. But right now neither forest department is allowing PHE to dig bore well at JKSCC corridor nor giving permission to PHE to make defunct bore well of forest department operational. This is despite the fact that Cable Corporation has already transferred forty lacs, a part of fee to PHE since March 2018 with a time limit of six months to complete it. But it seems departments are in no hurry to mutually settle this important aspect of ropeway project despite the intervention of the Divisional Commissioner Jammu. It is pertinent to mention that this Ropeway project is the major tourism booster with scope of generating thousands of jobs in the shape of workforce at restaurants, taxis, autos, tourist guides, jobs at Cable Corporation, shops at Bahu Fort or Maha Maya temple, parking slots, upcoming infrastructure like hotels or restaurants to name a few in addition to revenue generation from Jammu Ropeway, practically scope is numerous and always expandable. Even after getting final clearance staff has to be recruited by JKSCC and restaurants to be ready.
Other aspects which state administration has completely ignored while planning this project are JMC dumping site on back side of DC office which keeps stinking whole day, with City garbage littered all over the road leading to Ropeway and the uncovered City Nullah running all the way down straight to Tawi, a sight of whole city untreated stinking sewage at display for tourists to bear. It seems authorities plan to showcase Jammu as a City of Garbage to the tourists who act as advertising agents for future tourists’ inflow, but who cares as JMC is still struggling to have any policy towards solid waste management despite even High Court intervention time and again and R&B or ERA simply unable to cover hundred meters of open nullah. Road side parked vehicles is another unattended problem which makes it virtually impossible for a tourist bus to go up to Ropeway parking. When ropeways are worldwide being used as a transit means to decongest cities, this Jammu Ropeway project has very much capability of expansion up to Jammu Golf Club with an artificial lake below which can be a major tourist attraction and destination but the inability of different departments to cooperate and coordinate for early completion and inauguration of this prestigious Jammu Ropeway, but has no immediate solution right now in sight unless higher authorities intervene to get inspection report immediately. Can status of UT be the game changer for this project or like fate of other Jammu projects authorities of different departments will still remain in deep slumber for this project also and till then taxpayers seventy five crores will remain stuck in official files, for how long no one can tell.