Srinagar, Sept 24: The construction of an all-weather 6.5 kilometer Sadhna tunnel that would connect Karnah with Kupwara in North Kashmir is still a distant dream as Central Government is yet to give green signal to the project and as a result around one lakh people remain cut off from rest of Kashmir during winters.
Residents of Karnah area of border Kupwara district, which lies close to Pakistan occupied Kashmir, said from last many years they have been demanding a construction of the tunnel near Sadhna Pass, which is situated at an attitude of 11,000 feet above sea level, but so far no concrete measure has been taken in this regard. The road to Karnah which passes though Chowkibal and then Sadhna Pass is avalanche and accident prone which has consumed dozens of lives in recent years.
Some of the dangerous locations on the Kupwara-Karnah road include Zarla curve, Khooni Nallah, Dub, Dhana and Neelam curve, the residents said, adding that the road remains closed for nearly six months due to heavy snowfall. “Every winter, the Sadhna Pass records 15 to 20 feet snow and completely blocks the road for vehicular traffic. The people of the Karnah remain cut-off from rest of the Valley and they are left at the mercy of God,” said Peerzada Sayed, a local resident.
The locals said that their first and foremost demand has been construction of the pattern of Jawahar Tunnel from TP to Zarla Curve as it would easily negotiate dangerous height of Sadhna Pass and thus prevent loss of lives in road mishaps, avalanches, landslides and shooting stone. They said that it would also keep Karnah connected to rest of the Valley throughout the year. “Every resident of Karnah has been suffering. Most hit are patients and students. For the want of healthcare, the patients die in their homes because there is no connectivity in winters,” the locals added.
In 2016, the Border Roads Organization (BRO) submitted a proposal to Government of India (GoI) for three strategically important tunnels to be constructed in North Kashmir and that included Sadhna Tunnel. The officials of State Government as well as BRO – which is responsible for construction and maintenance of border roads – said they are awaiting green signal from Centre. Chief Engineer Project Beacon of BRO, Brigadier Vishal Agarwal told Excelsior: “We are a construction agency and we have submitted the proposal. Now, we are waiting for approval for Sadhna Tunnel construction,” he said.
The demand for tunnel was put before Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti by locals of Karnah during her recent visit to the area. “We told her that it is our prime demand. We will wait for other things but this demand of ours should be fulfilled as soon as possible,” the locals said. Ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader and local legislator Raja Manzoor said that they expect Centre to approve the project soon.
“The Chief Minister has taken up the matter with the Centre and recommended Sadhna Tunnel construction. The detailed project report has been submitted and we hope that the Centre would approve it on priority basis soon. The State is pursuing the case very seriously because we know it is long pending demand of the locals of Karnah,” he told Excelsior.