PMO sets Nov 15 deadline for start of work on NH after high level review

Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Sept 24: The Prime Minister’s Officer (PMO) today held high level review of construction work on Udhampur-Srinagar stretch of the National Highway in New Delhi and set November 15 deadline for the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) to start work on Udhampur-Ramban and Ramban-Banihal stretches for which the Centre had recently approved Rs 4305.63 crores. It also directed for expeditious improvement in road condition of Qazigund-Srinagar stretch of the highway.
Nipender Sharma, Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the high level review in which all top officers of the PMO, Union Ministry for Road and Surface Transport and National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) were present. Chief Secretary BR Sharma and Commissioner/Secretary (Works) Rohit Kansal represented the Jammu and Kashmir Government.
Mr Sharma told the Excelsior on telephone from New Delhi after the meeting that the PMO was keen to immediately start 4-laning work on remaining stretches of the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway and improve road conditions on Qazigund-Srinagar section.
“We briefed the PMO that we have set October 15 as deadline for all the Deputy Commissioners for acquiring land on the National Highway, payment of compensation and completion of other formalities so that work could start on new stretches of the National Highway,’’ the Chief Secretary said.
He said several issues pertaining to 4-laning of the Highway and improvement of road conditions (of the Highway) including land acquirement, cutting of trees, payment of compensation to the people etc figured in the meeting and were addressed.
Official sources said the PMO today set November 15 as deadline for the NHAI to start work on 4-laning of Udhampur-Ramban and Ramban-Banihal stretches of the National Highway for which the Union Ministry for Road and Surface Transport had approved Rs 4305.63 crores early this month.
Sources said the 4-laning work on Ramban-Banihal section could now take three and half years for completion i.e. the earlier deadline for completion of work might go up from May 2016 to May 2019 while work on Udhampur-Ramban section was likely to be completed in three years i.e. by November 2018.
“The top NHAI officials briefed the PMO that tender work for both the stretches was complete and the two companies have nearly been finalized for taking up the 4-laning work. All necessary documentation between the NHAI and the executing agencies was nearly complete,’’ sources said, adding that the PMO has fixed November 15 as deadline for start of the work.
“Hopefully, the deadline will be met,’’ sources said pointing out that the State Government has already fixed October 15 as deadline for the Deputy Commissioners (under whose jurisdiction the widening work has to be taken up) for acquirement of land, clearance for cutting of trees, payment of compensation for land etc to facilitate start of work by the executing agencies by November 15.
Early this month, the Cabinet Committee on Economic affairs headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had approved Rs 4305.63 crores as revised cost estimates for Udhampur to Ramban and Ramban to Banihal for work on 4-laning of the highway under National Highways Development Project (NHDP), Phase-II.
Revised amount of Rs 2136.97 crores was approved for Udhampur-Ramban section of National Highway-1A (now NH-44) and Rs 2168.66 crores were approved for Ramban-Banihal section.
The CCEA had given nod to Rs 4305.63 crores following approval given by the Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC) for development of four laning of National Highways under NHDP Phase-II on Engineering Procurement Construction (EPC) Mode.
The CCEA had approved investment/award decision for the sub-project of four laning of Udhampur-Ramban section of the National Highway on EPC mode at revised estimate cost of Rs 2136.97 crores including cost of land acquisition, R&R, pre-construction activities and centage charges. Similarly, the CCEA approved investment award decision for the sub-project of four laning of Ramban-Banihal section at revised cost estimate of Rs 2168.66 crores.
The approximate length of Udhampur-Ramban section will be 40 kilometers while that of Ramban-Banihal section will be 32 kilometers.
The 4-laning of the highway will provide all weather connectivity from Jammu to Kashmir Valley. It will also reduce the journey from Jammu to Srinagar and strategic border areas in the State.
“Moreover, implementation of the project would result in development of basic infrastructure in the region, which would lead ultimately to overall economic development of Jammu and Kashmir,” sources said.
Sources said Ramban-Banihal section of the National Highway is the major cause of concern as it gets blocked even with light rains, which trigger landslides. Once blocked, it takes lot of time for the BRO to re-open the National Highway. Ahead of Udhampur, Khairi has become another troublesome zone, which was closed quite often following rains.
The NHAI has divided the National Highway into six stretches for construction purposes including Jammu-Udhampur, Udhampur-Chenani, Chenani Tunnel-Nashri, Ramban-Banihal, Banihal-Qazigund and Qazigund-Srinagar with a view to expedite work to ensure early completion of the Highway.
The distance of 300 kilometers long Jammu-Srinagar National Highway will be reduced by 60 kilometers after completion of all six stretches of the National Highway. The reduced distance will cut the travel time to just five hours.
Presently, if the National Highway is normal, the journey takes anytime between eight to 10 hours. However, due to frequent road blockades between Ramban and Banihal and other places including Khairi near Udhampur, the people were trapped frequently in the jams and even had to spend nights on the roads to reach their destinations.
The State Government had recently asked the Union Ministry for Surface Transport to stress on the maintenance agencies to keep the highway through during the rains as it remained closed sometime for hours and on other occasions for days together causing enormous inconvenience to the commuters.

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