“It is good to have an end to Journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end”
The Journey of Railway connectivity in India dates back to over 165 years ago. In 1853, the first train ran between Bori Bonder and Thane in Maharashtra. The British had brought Railways into India for their own benefit and no one could have imagined that a transportation system would unite the States and bring them together to form a nation. Jammu and Kashmir is the crowning glory of the Indian subcontinent and it has been adored for centuries. Nonetheless the fact, Jammu and Kashmir remained underprivileged as far as Railway connectivity is concerned even long after Independence, though proposed many times. In late 90’sMinistry of Railways, Govt. of India took up the colossal task to connect Jammu and Kashmir with rest of the India through a Railway link named Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link project(USBRL). This brought the new dawn of Railway transportation in J&K. In Year 2002,this Project was declared as the ‘Project of National importance’. The Total Length of the Project is 348 KM but extendable, subject to future requirements. TheUSBRL Project is owned by Firozpur Division; Northern Railways. The project is unique and having various sections, many of them are completed and operational. Among the operational are Jammu to Udhampur (2005), Qazigund to Baramulla (2008), Qazigund to Banihal (2013)Udhampur to Karta(2014). The intervening stretch between Katra and Banihal is being constructed expeditiously, would be completed soon. There are 7 Railway Stations in under construction Katra and Banihal section, encompassing remotest areas and villages of District Katra and Ramban. One of the Railway Stations is being built in Village Sangaldan.
Sangaldan is an exquisite village in the Ramban-District of the Indian union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. It is located 35 KMs from Ramban NH44. It falls in the Gool -Gulabgarh area of Chenab valley and located on the right bank of CHINJI (major Tributary of Chenab River). Being a winsome place, Sangaldan used to be backwoods almost two decades ago. Bus was the only mode of transport from Jammu. Last bus used to reach Gool-Gulabgarh at 4 PM evening via Sangaldan.Road connectivity in those days was also underprivileged. Militancy was also at peak in that era. Tranquillity used to prevail after 6 PM but in the last couple of years, its grace and grandeur has increased manifold due to building of Sangaldan Railway Station and under construction Railway Link. Demographic density of the village has also increased due to presence of personnel engaged in Railway Project. Sangaldan is known for its resources be this natural, water, environmental, mineral and many more. This place is famous for the sulphur spring whose water is believed to have miraculous healing powers. Thousands of people throng the place from June to ending November every year from within and outside the state particularly from neighbouring Punjab state to take a dip in these revered springs to get rid themselves of ailments, particularly Dermatitis and Arthritis. Sangaldan is also known as major exporter of quince fruit, its seeds (bee dana) which is an Ayurvedic herb that has been used in the Ayurvedic system for ages. Quince plant is native to Iran and Turkey. Sangaldan is also known for its best quality Anardana (pomegranate seeds).
Presence of Gypsum Mineral rich deposits in the close vicinity of this area also makes Sangaldan unescapable. Geological Survey of India during 1980’s had mapped and logged Gypsum deposits in this area. It is reported that there is presence of more than 90 million tons of in Gypsumin Dharam Kund area adjoining Sangaldan. The reserve is known as Parlanka Gypsum mine. which was earlier started in 2002-2003 but halted. Various Site visits are already conducted by concerned higher authorities, officials, technocrats and political leaders to expedite the additional mining work which would enhance employment in J&K UT.
Godha Gali,an unexplored tourist destination is about 15 KM from Sangaldan. There is presence of large stone sculptures, believed to be personally sculpted by the Pandavas during the age of Mahabharata. The art work on these stones is very fine and depicts a high form of artistic skill of the time. Even after thousands of years, the art on these sculptures remains absolutely explicit.
Sangaldan Section of USBRL Project
In spite of resource rich area, Sangaldan remained unrecognized. The inception of USB Rail Link Section and proposed Railway station in Sangaldan started the tale of development in Sangaldan. Northern Railway entrusted Konkan Railway Corporation Limited(KRCL) to execute the Railway Station yard of approx.945 M,5 Tunnels and 3 Bridges between KM 91+400 to KM 101+316.The Contract was awarded to AFCONS as a contractor. Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited(SJVNL) was appointed by KRCL as design Consultant. RITES had conducted preliminary site investigation. For Tunnel convergence monitoring works, ENCARDIORITES was appointed. In December 2005 the work in this particular stretch started but at snail’s pace. Although, The Ministry of Railways cancelled the project on the existed old alignment between Katra and Qazigund due to suspected geological instability, ordering Konkan Railway to stop all work on the section (including the Iconic Chenab Bridge) and terminate all contracts issued for work on the section in July 2008.The work again resumed in September 2009 after making changes in old alignment. The Alignment of this section starts from Baralla Village and ends in Dharam Village. Conventional Method of Tunnel excavation was adopted which included installation of ISHB 150 steel ribs, Self-Drilling Anchors, Concrete laggings, and Concrete backfilling and pipe roofing during excavation stage with subsequent Tunnel monitoring.
Geological Importance of Sangaldan
Himalayan orogeny has always remained an interesting topic among readers of Engineering and Geological background due to complex Geological Conditions emerged out from the collision of the two tectonic Plates, namely, the Indian Plate thrusting into the Eurasian Plate.Indian margin of the Himalayan collisional range, being this margin by now concordantly constituted by three major Units, the Sub Himalaya and the Lesser and the Higher Himalaya Crystalline (HHC), respectively divided, in this chain sector, by the Murree thrust (MBT) and the Panjal thrust. There is Exposure and presence of Main Boundary Thrust (Muree thrust) in close vicinity of Sangaldan. The Main Boundary Thrust is best detectable thrust in the topography. It follows the Chenab River from Peerah to the area around Dharamkund. At Dharamkund it leaves the Chenab Valley and continues along the CHINGI Tributary (Near Tunnel T 47 Portal P2). Itis captivating to see transpicuous distinction of two different rock formations in same place. One end of the spectrum consists of Sandstone, Claystone and Siltstone rocks of Muree formation(younger rocks) and other consists of Phyllites Slates and Quartzites rocks of Ramban Formation(older rocks). These two different rock formations are separated by Muree Thrust. In Thrust Zone, the rock mass on the either side is weak and incompetent. The core material of Thrust Zone is Gouge(Like loose soil /Flour) which is result of severe grinding of rock masses along a plane which may extend tens to Hundreds of Kilometers.
Project execution hardships
Total Length of Tunnel T 47 is 2230 M between Ch:99+092 M to 101+322 M. Murree thrust/Shear Zone in Tunnel T 47 was anticipated during investigation stage. but the stretch that would encounter in Tunnel was indistinct. I was able to foresee the presence of these weak contacts of Muree Thrust at least 6 months prior to the Tunnel Excavation. Different safety measures were planned in advance by enhanced support installation. During excavation stage, the Thrust Zone encountered in two branches(upper and lower contact) with cumulative stretch of 150 M.Due to Presence of these weak zones the pace of progress was also impeded. Huge ingress of water was also witnessed (>2000 Lit/Min while passing through these contacts of Muree Thrust.
Reprofiling of Deformed stretches
As mentioned earlier, Muree formation consist ofclaystone, Siltstone and sandstone. Most of the Tunnelling is done through Mureeformation. Except Sandstone and siltstone, tunnel excavation through Claystone remained difficult due to its strength parameters, mineral composition and its properties. These properties include: plastic behaviour when wet, catalytic abilities, swelling behaviour, and low permeability. Kaolinite and montmorillonite constitutes important Clay minerals which affected the Tunnel even after excavation. Tunnel stretches, which went through Claystone observed deformation even in Rigid Steel Support. To maintain proper Tunnel profile in deformed stretches, Reprofiling was again done in >1000 M cumulative stretch of Tunnels. Final lining works started after complete stabilization of reprofiled sections.
Dharam Kund bridge
Although the distance between Dharam Kund and Sangaldan is just 20 KMs but Single Suspension Bridge over Chenab River with the capacity of 10 Tons at Dharam Kund Area was the only source of connectivity between Ramban and Sangaldan since 2014.Transportaionof heavy machinery and construction material for Project was a herculean task from this bridge. A yard was setup by AFCONS prior to bridge location where the construction material used to unlade and transported in parts to the project site. In 2014, new robust and single span bridge was constructed by Railway authorities, which eased the transportation for upcoming projects. There were so many challenges faced during the construction of this project but the dedicated team from AFCONS, Cordial Client KRCL and Northern Railway made successful completion of one of the most difficult sections of USBRL project. Appreciation awards from KRCL in the field of Geology for accurate prediction of Muree Thrust, Safety for contributing 16.5 million Safe man hours and Civil Engineers for making the record Gantries was conferred among the staff of AFCONS
Scope of tourism
There is no denying of the fact that Jammu and Kashmir is reckoned as one of the most preferred tourist destinations across the sphere. Every remote village through which the USBRL is passing will definitely flourish in couple of years to come. Sangaldan has a vast scope of tourist development due to already mention resourceful richness. Keeping in mind the mounting scope of the tourism industry, the estimated employment would also increase.
(The author is formerly, Geologist AFCONS)