Mountains versus machines

It is bizarre; it is incredible and it is historic. Stately mountain ranges of Trikuta and Pir Panchal, spanning the Jammu-Kashmir region, their serpentine gradients and curves, their massive but slipping landslides, their deep and awe-inspiring gorges and nullahs all are becoming helpless and meaningless to the onslaught of men and their machines. Their awesome ferocity that often made commuters and pedestrians hold their breath till they crossed the narrow and deadly patches in safety, are all gradually fading into non-existence. Season in and season out, the Jammu-Srinagar tortuous mountain road has taken huge toll of precious human lives. To cut through the body of these stately mountains and their solid rocks has been the cherished dream for more than a century in the past. But it is only now that the dream has begun to fructify. The multi-crore rupee project of four-lanning the entire 300 meter Jammu-Srinagar road is undertaken in four patches. Sources reveal that 26 per cent work at an expenditure of Rs 630 crore was completed up to July 2012, and rehabilitation, strengthening and four-lanning of Jammu-Udhampur Section from 15 kilometre milestone (Jammu Bypass) to 67 kilometre milestone (Udhampur) would be completed in all respects by June 2014 at an expenditure of Rs 1813.76 crore.
This is not an ordinary project. Besides enormous funds, it entails super expertise in road building, geology and mining sector, constructional engineering, bridge and culvert construction and many other fields of modern engineering. Imagine the gigantic task underway at NH 1A. All the existing blind curves and steep gradients on this section of the highway are being removed by constructing 21 major and 22 minor bridges, 212 culverts, 38 pipe culverts, 174 RCC Slab/Box culverts and 22 viaducts. Besides this eight tunnels of varying lengths but not exceeding 600 meters will also come up and work on the same would begin next month.
The purpose of widening the mountain road is to make transportation safe and reduce distance and time. Apart from this, the project is bound to generate economy, employment, business and activity in the otherwise desolate and rather forbidden mountainous region extending over two hundred kilometres. This region is economically backward mainly owing to lack of adequate connectivity. The fact is that with this project and the railway project of linking the valley with the rest of the country are going to change the age old destiny of the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir. For all the decades of freedom, it remained a burning question that road connectivity to Kashmir and Ladakh regions needed to be upgraded and modernized. Industrialists usually put forth the inadequacy of connectivity as an excuse for not investing in Kashmir. Obviously all this hampered rapid economic development of the state more so the two regions of Kashmir and Ladakh. They virtually remained cut off during winter months and rainy season. It goes to the credit of policy planners at State and Central level that vision and initiative were inducted into the question of streamlining overland connectivity in the State. Once four-lanning of the National Highway and also the rail link are established and become functional, a new era promising vast developmental potential of the State will be ushered in. It will open space for full-fledged industrial development of the State with necessary infrastructure in place. It will give a major boost to tourism, and it will enhance manifold agricultural and horticultural activities. Furthermore, this connectivity will hasten extended connectivity within the valley and to Ladakh once the contemplated tunnel at Zoji La is completed. The day will not be far off when rail link between Jammu and Poonch on one hand and extension of railway in the valley on the other will become a reality. We need to have patience and pursue sustained development. This is not a dream that cannot be realized. Our engineers and planners are capable of doing miracles once environment is conducive. But the most important requirement for all these developmental works is peace and tranquility in the country and the State.
Four-lanning of this National Highway is done under the modern concept of road building which is very different from what it was in the past. For example, to avoid buses and trucks parking on the sidelines, the project envisages at least six lay-bys, meaning providing specific space where duty vehicles can be parked. It also envisages reconstruction and recovery complex at a few places for uninterrupted traffic enroute besides round the clock medical attendance for emergency.  All this will make travel along this highway a pleasure trip. The entire region will boom with activity and people will find new life. Education, healthcare, employment, food supplies are major service that will receive boost once this important connectivity is established.


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