Landslides clearance left to whims of local contractors, Traffic mess on NH

Panoramic view of Bahu Fort under the blanket of clouds in Jammu. —Excelsior/Rakesh
Panoramic view of Bahu Fort under the blanket of clouds in Jammu. —Excelsior/Rakesh

MeT predicts rain, snowfall across J&K

Gopal Sharma
Jammu/Srinagar, Jan 30: A traffic mess on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway amidst shooting stones in Ramban area and frequent closure of road, led to stranding of hundreds of passengers on the way today with road clearance left by the Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) to the whims of local contractors, while light rain and snowfall at Pir Panchal and other higher reaches across J&K has further brought down the temperature in the region.
IG Traffic Alok Kumar told the Excelsior that around 3000 vehicles left from Kashmir towards Jammu today and majority of them crossed Jawahar Tunnel by this evening. “These included 2200 Light Motor Vehicles, around 700 trucks/ tankers and about 300 security force vehicles,” he said.

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Kumar said HCC carried out repair work at Anokhi Fall and some other problematic areas from 10 pm last night to 6 am today. Some of the vehicles which had been stranded on Ramban side were cleared for Srinagar during early morning and from 9 am today, the traffic from Kashmir to Jammu side was allowed. He said the shooting stones at Panthyal, Anokhi Fall, Battery Chashma and several other places disrupted movement of traffic but road was cleared several times and traffic restored. He said at Marog, fresh landslides blocked the highway but it was cleared by the Highway authorities within an hour.
The IG further said since the rain and snowfall at higher reaches started this evening and as per weather forecast, there are chances of fresh snowfall in Pir Panchal -Banihal axis, the movement of traffic will be stopped as precautionary measures, in case snowfall increases in Jawahar Tunnel area. The movement of traffic will be reviewed tomorrow morning as per weather conditions, he maintained.
Meanwhile, an official Jawahar Tunnel said that the major problem led to stranding of the vehicles and passengers on the highway due to massive traffic jam on either side of the Jawahar Tunnel today. He said they were told in the morning that there are a few hundred vehicles on way to Srinagar and need to cross the Jawahar Tunnel. “I counted 1500, mostly huge trucks that crossed the Jawahar Tunnel despite traffic being from Srinagar to Jammu. Another, over 1000 vehicles mostly trucks are on way to Srinagar in Banihal sector. What can we do?” he asked.
He said that the plying of traffic on both ways especially heavy vehicles has led to massive traffic jam and stranding of people on the highway.
One Mohammad Hanif Sofi, who left Srinagar this morning reached Qazigund on-way to Jammu at around 8 a.m. He said that he crossed the Jawahar Tunnel at 3 p.m. due to huge traffic jam. He was near Banihal Railway Station at around 7 p.m. in a massive traffic jam. “I am surprised that we were told that traffic is from Srinagar to Jammu today but I saw at least 2000 vehicles mostly trucks which either crossed the Jawahar tunnel towards Srinagar or were on the way in Banihal sector”, he said.
A senior official at Ramban said that 4000 vehicles mostly trucks were on way to Srinagar when Traffic was allowed to ply from Srinagar to Jammu. He said that this has led to traffic jam along the national highway today and yesterday. He alleged that mismanagement by Traffic Police authorities, is responsible for the mess on the NH.
The official said that another major issue leading to mess on the National Highway was that the clearance of landslides and shooting stones at Ankohi Fall, Marog, Battery Chashma, Magarkote, Panthial, Sher Bibi, Digdol and other places has been left to the whims of local contractors.
The official said that NHAI is doing the construction work on the NH-44 with the HCC as the executing agency. He said that the HCC has sublet the cutting of rocks and slide clearance to the local contractors, who at the time of emergency don’t clear the slides and shooting stones on war footing. He said that they have no expertise in rock cutting and slide clearance as is with the Border Roads Organization (BRO).
The official said that the Government needs to take the Construction agency to task and strengthen the Traffic Police department to avoid the mess on the NH.
Meanwhile, there was fresh light snowfall in Kashmir valley today with Weatherman forecasting more rain and snowfall tomorrow.  This led to drop in the temperatures with people mostly staying indoors.
The Divisional Administration Kashmir today issued an avalanche warning for next 24-hours for hilly and avalanche prone areas of Kashmir Valley, Leh and Kargil districts.
“Avalanche warning valid for next 24-hours from January 30 to January 31, 2019 (1700 hrs) exists for avalanche-prone areas in Anantnag, Baramulla, Budgam, Kulgam, Kupwara, Bandipora, Ganderbal, Kargil and Leh districts of Kashmir Division” a statement issued here said.
In Jammu region, light rain and snowfall at the higher reaches was experienced since this afternoon. The sky remained cloudy throughout the day while there was sharp fall in temperature. Light snowfall at the higher reaches of Bhaderwah, Doda, Kishtwar, Ramban, Reasi, Udhampur, Poonch and Rajouri has been reported.
Jammu recorded a minimum temperature of 7.7 degree Celsius today, tourist resort of Bhaderwah 0.6 degree C, Batote 1.2 degree C, Banihal 0.7 degree C, holy township of Katra minimum 7.4 degree C and maximum 17 degree C while Kathua town recorded maximum 18.4 degree C and minimum 4.5 degree Celsius temperature. Drass remained the coldest place in the state with minimum temperature of minus 18 degree C.


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