Strengthening Connectivity in Jammu and Kashmir

“When a network of good roads is created, the economy of the country also picks up pace. Roads are veins and arteries of the nation, which help to transform the pace of development and ensure that prosperity reaches the farthest corners of our nation.”
-Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Road transport is one of the most cost effective and convenient modes of transportation in India both for freight and passengers as it has high penetration level with door-to-door delivery. Importance of road infrastructure is widely recognized as a potent means of socio-economic integration and is vital for the economic development of the country.1 The total road network in India is 6.4 million kilometres comprising of national & state highways and urban & rural roads. National highways account for 2% of the total road network and carry over 40% of total traffic.
Highways to Growth
* In the last seven years, the length of NHs in the country has gone up by more than 50% from 91,287 km (as on April 2014) to around 1,41,000 km (as on 31 December 2021).
* Pace of construction of NHs increased from 12 km per day in 2014-15 to 37 km per day in 2020-21 (by more than three times). 4,410 km of NHs were constructed in 2014-15, while 13,327 km of NHs were constructed in 2020-21.2
* In the financial year 2021-22, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways built 5407 km of NHs (as on 24 December).
* In order to enhance transparency, uniformity and leverage latest technology, the National Highways Authority of India has made mandatory use of drones for monthly video recording of National Highway projects during all stages of development, construction, operation and maintenance. Contractors and Concessionaires shall carry out the drone video recording in presence of Team Leader of the Supervision Consultant.
* National highway network is to be further expanded by 25,000 kms during FY 22-23.
* The Government launched the Bharatmala Pariyojana, which aims to build 66,100 km of economic corridors, border and coastal roads, and expressways to boost the highway network. It is envisaged that the programme will provide four-lane connectivity to 550 districts, increase the vehicular speed by 20-25% and reduce the supply chain costs by 5-6%.
* 100% FDI in roads and highways is allowed under automatic route.
Status of Road Infrastructure in Jammu and Kashmir
Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a historic decision on August 5, 2019, of ending Articles 370 and 35A in Jammu & Kashmir, development efforts have picked up in the UT of J&K. The Government has, since 2019, initiated measures to strengthen the road infrastructure in J&K which have begun to show results:
Major Developments in Road and Rail Infrastructure in Jammu and Kashmir
* Prime Minister’s Development Package (PMDP) 2015- The implementation of the Prime Minister’s Development Package (PMDP) that was announced on 7 November 2015 at a cost of Rs 80,068 crore has been accelerated. 53 projects pertaining to 15 Ministries are being implemented in Jammu and Kashmir in various sectors such as Roads, Power, Health, Education, Tourism, Agriculture, Skill Development etc., out of which 25 projects have been completed/substantially completed.
*Srinagar Ring Road: Work for construction of the Srinagar Ring Road/ Bypass from Galander to Sumbal Road Crossing on Jammu Srinagar section of NHI-A has been awarded by NHAI. The ring road will traverse through 52 villages and five districts of Pulwama, Budgam, Baramulla, Srinagar and Bandipora. The entire greenfield alignment has been proposed on the western side of Srinagar city to cater to its inhabitants. Vehicles carrying heavy machinery to border/strategic areas such as Baramulla, Uri, Kupwara, Bandipora and Ganderbal will have an easier, congestion-free passage along this route. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accompanied by Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, has laid the foundation stone of Srinagar Ring road on 19 May 2018.
* Jammu Ring Road: The Jammu Ring Road is being built as a four lane Green Highway, connecting Jagti to Raya Morh. This will help decongest Jammu and improve connectivity in this region. The foundation for this project was laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May 2018.
* Jammu-Udhampur Bypass: Upgrading NH-44 to four lanes from Jammu Bypass to Udhampur Bypass is being done. The length of the bypass is 64.579 km which has a worth of Rs. 2,626.33 Cr. The Bypass will decongest traffic in Jammu and will boost tourism in the State. It will also open new opportunities for the people of this region.
* Delhi-Amritsar-Katra Expressway: The 669 kilometre long Delhi-Amritsar-Katra Expressway will be developed at a total cost of about Rs 39,500 crore. It will halve travel time from Delhi to Amritsar and Delhi to Katra. The Greenfield Expressway will connect key Sikh religious sites at Sultanpur Lodhi, Goindwal Sahib, Khadoor Sahib, Tarn Taran and the holy Hindu shrine of Vaishno Devi in Katra.
* Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link Project: The Jammu-Baramulla Railway link connects the Kashmir Valley with Jammu Railway Station and the rest of the country. The project has been declared as National Project. Institutions like IIT Delhi, IIT Roorkee, Geographical Survey of India and DRDO are providing expertise in the project planning and implementation. This route will also see the construction of world’s highest railway bridge and India’s first cable stayed Railway Bridge. After completion, this line will be all- weather convenient and cost-effective mass transportation system and will act as a catalyst for the overall development of the northern most alpine region of the country. This project has great significance for security and socio-economic development. It can play important role in rapid industrialization, movement of raw materials and finished products from J&K and encourage trade and tourism in the region apart from providing opportunity for employment. Similarly it will be a boon for development of agriculture, horticulture and floriculture of this area. Construction of the first three phases of the railway project has been completed and the line is operational between Banihal – Baramulla in Kashmir Valley and Jammu-Udhampur-Katra in Jammu region.10
Tunnel Network in Jammu and Kashmir
* Banihal-Qazigund Road Tunnel: Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Banihal Qazigund Road Tunnel on April 24, 2022. This tunnel has been built at a cost of over Rs 3100 crore. The 8.45 Km long tunnel would reduce the road distance between Banihal and Qazigund by 16 km, and reduce journey time by around one and a half hours. It is a twin tube tunnel – one for each direction of travel – with the twin tubes being interconnected by a cross passage every 500m, for maintenance and emergency evacuation. The tunnel would help establish an all-weather connection between Jammu and Kashmir, and bring the two regions closer.11
* Zojila Tunnel: This tunnel project will provide all weather connectivity to the Union Territory of Ladakh. It involves construction of a 14.15 Km long tunnel at an altitude of about 3000m under Zojila pass on NH-1 connecting Srinagar and Leh through Dras& Kargil.Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone on 19.05.2018. The Zojila Tunnel will be Asia’s longest road tunnel worth Rs. 6,809 Cr, to be built at an altitude of 11,578 m above sea level.13The Zojila tunnel is of significant importance to the development and tourism for both UTs of J&K and Ladakh as it will provide round the year connectivity to Ladakh region.14The construction of Zozila Tunnel shall bring about all round economic and socio-cultural integration of these regions which remains cut-off from rest of the country during winters due to heavy snowfall for about six months. This Project will make the travel on Srinagar-Kargil-Leh Section of NH-1 free from avalanches, enhance the safety of the travelers crossing Zozila Pass and reduce the travel time from more than 3 hours to 15 minutes.15
* Chenani-Nashri tunnel- Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated the Chenani- Nashri tunnel in Jammu & Kashmir to the nation on 2 April 2017.It is a benchmark project in the wake of ‘Make in India’ and ‘Skill India’. India’s longest 9 km bi-directional highway tunnel, between Udhampur and Ramban in Jammu & Kashmir, it is built at an elevation of about 1,200 m on one of the most difficult Himalayan terrains. The tunnel will reduce the travel time between Jammu and Srinagar by two hours, bypassing about 41 km of road length. It will also ensure all-weather passage on a route that would earlier often see heavy traffic jams and disruptions due to landslides, snow, sharp curves, breakdown of vehicles and accidents. The tunnel has been constructed at a cost of about Rs. 3,720 Cr. (PIB)