Srinagar: Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has submitted a Rs 9,000-crore proposal to the Centre for construction of a road tunnel in Jammu and Kashmir that will connect strategically important Gurez town along the Line of Control to the rest of the Valley throughout the year.
“We have submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways for construction of an 18-kilometre tunnel at Razdhan pass to connect Gurez with rest of the Valley through out the year,” Chief Engineer BRO Brigadier A K Das said.
If approved, it will be longest road tunnel in the country and almost double the size of the present record holder Chenani-Nashri tunnel (9.2 km) — also in Jammu and Kashmir, which is expected to be completed later this year.
Gurez, a picturesque valley in Bandipora district, is located along LoC and remains cut off from rest of Kashmir during winter months due to heavy snowfall.
It is one of the many strategic areas of Kashmir — in terms of defence as well as energy security — as work is in progress on the Kishenganga Hydro Electric Project there.
Gurez has also been used as an infiltration route by militants coming from the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Das said a feasibility study has already been conducted for the tunnel and, if constructed, it will be of huge help not only to defence forces but also the civilian population of the area. “It will improve connectivity leading to development of the area.”
The BRO official said the organisation has also submitted proposal for three more strategically important tunnels to be constructed in the Valley.
“These include a 6.5-kilometre tunnel at Sadhna that will improve the connectivity with the Tangdhar area (along the LoC) in Kupwara district, another at Furkian (Keran Sector) and a 3.5-km tunnel at Zamindar Gali (Macchil Sector),” he said.
Brig Das said feasibility studies will be conducted on these three projects after the approval from the Union Ministry.
Tangdhar, Keran and Macchil areas of Kupwara district fall along the Line of Control and also remain cut off from from rest of the state due to heavy snowfall during winter.
All-weather road connectivity with these areas, where army has a significant presence, can improve the security situation as well as help the state government to exploit the tourism potential of these untapped areas.
Das said there were several other projects that may be handed over to the BRO for execution. One of these projects connects Poonch in Jammu region to Uri in north Kashmir's Baramulla district under the Bharat Mala programme launched by the Union government.
He said the project envisages connecting Poonch district to Uri town– both strategic towns as these fall along the LoC — while also providing connectivity to smaller village enroute.
At present, travel by road between Uri and Poonch, a distance of around 650 kilometres, takes at least two days but a direct road connection will reduce it to around one hour.
The aerial distance between these two towns is just 35 kms. Brig Das said the maintenance of Mughal Road is also likely to be handed over to the BRO, which will be looking after the Shopian-Peer Ki Gali stretch.
“Obviously, if Mughal Road has to be an all-weather road, we need to construct a tunnel there,” he added.
Mughal Road was opened in November 2009 for vehicular traffic after remaining closed for many decades due to security concerns. However, the road remains closed for almost five months due to heavy snowfall in higher reaches the Pir Panjal mountain range.