Highway Blues | Gradients of road have improved; landslides pose problems

NHAI asked to handover 2nd tube of Ramban flyover by August 15, complete Banihal bypass by 2023 end

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GK NEWS

The gradients of road at different vulnerable stretches between Ramban and Banihal on Srinagar-Jammu National Highway (NH-44) have been improved but the landslides continue to hinder smooth traffic movement.

This is a shared opinion of agencies entrusted with the responsibility to maintain this crucial surface-link between Kashmir and the rest of the country.

Broader perceptions may vary yet even the experts don’t deny that landslides do pose problems in one among the youngest and fragile mountains of the world.

And when the landslides occur, generally an impact of vagaries of weather, they take their toll in the form of frequent closures of NH-44 and many a time in accidents.

Can it not be stopped or at least minimised?

Taking cognisance of the problems being faced by the general masses due to frequent closure of Srinagar Jammu National Highway, the government, seemingly, has identified certain specific measures to focus on – small yet effective steps till the completion of ongoing works on NH-44.

Major step, though, continues to be focusing on expediting the rate of completion of ongoing projects. After all, timelines are a way to complete projects faster than they would otherwise. If one goes by the official statistics shared by different government functionaries at different points of time, it is maintained that in the last couple of years, the project completion rate has gone up ten times.

The government’s resolve for strict adherence to deadlines as far as possible (given difficult nature of work largely dependent on mood swings of capricious weather), was evident when the Chief Secretary Arun Kumar Mehta, while chairing a meet to take stock of the condition of Srinagar Jammu National Highway on July 19, directed the executing agencies to “handover the 2nd tube of the Ramban flyover by August 15 and Banihal bypass by the end of this year as committed earlier.”

Going by the details shared by Information Department in its official handout, the Chief Secretary had also taken cognisance of the issues viz improving the gradient of the road at many places between Ramban and Banihal; widening of carriageway at identified spots, designating the truck holding areas, taking strict action against the chronically slow moving vehicles; disallowing overloading in trucks, their road-side parking and above all, strict adherence to lane discipline.

It was emphasised by the Chief Secretary that only 60 kms of the road was two-lane out of more than 300 kms and therefore should not become a major bottleneck for smooth management of traffic.

With regard to directions of the Chief Secretary, the Project Director NHAI, PIU, Ramban Purshotam Kumar maintains that the executing agency is working day and night to achieve this objective.

“As per agreement, the deadline for Banihal bypass is January, 2024. We have been directed to complete it earlier than that. We are engaged in making it possible with full dedication and commitment despite our constraints on account of vagaries of weather. We are trying our best to meet deadlines fixed for us,” he says.

According to him, the work on the Ramban flyover project is almost complete as the work on only eight slabs is to be finished.

With regard to another major concern flagged by the experts about the need for fresh environment impact assessment to avoid the frequent closure of NH-44, the government has a line of reasoning and that is – all projects are implemented after environment clearance, if needed, depending upon guidelines.

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