An all-weather 8.5 Km tunnel between Jammu and Kashmir’s Qazigund and Banihal is in its final stage of construction and will be opened for the public soon.
The tunnel will facilitate connectivity between Kashmir and Jammu and solve the problem of road closures due to snowfall and landslides in winters.
This tunnel bypasses the most difficult terrain on the national highway. It has been made on Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) basis. It is attached with an exhaust system to remove gas and bring in the fresh air. It has around 124 jet fans, 234 CCTV modern cameras and a firefighting system installed.
Project manager Jal Chandru informed that safety tests are being performed in the tunnel.
“Total road is 16.3 km out of which tunnel stretches for 8.5 km. There are around 124 jet fans and 234 CCTV cameras for purpose of controlling. Right now safety testing is being done,” he said.
The tunnel will be beneficial to the locals ans tourists during closure of the national highway between Jammu and Kashmir in winters.
It will help in keeping intact the continuous supply of essential commodities in Kashmir valley which was oftenly disrupted due to snowfall or landslides.
Elaborating on the benefits of the tunnel, Chandru said, “The tunnel will reduce the travel time by 1-1.5 hours. Another remarkable feature is that it will function even during the months of snowfall. It will be very beneficial to the common man.”
As the tunnel nears completion, the locals of the area are relieved as they had no other route to use during the winters previously. Earlier, the time taken to reach Kashmir from Jammu during the closure of the national highway was two hours. The tunnel shall cut short this time to 20 minutes.
A resident of Banihal, Asif Hussain, told ANI that many patients died in the region due to unsuitable weather coupled with connectivity issues.
“One major problem was when one has to take any patient to a hospital during winters. It used to take a lot of time. From 2-3 hours, the travel time has reduced to about 15 minutes in this tunnel. From Banihal, patients are referred to Kashmir. There have been a lot of deaths in the region due to unsuitable weather. Even pregnant women faced difficulties because of connectivity problems in Banihal,” he said.
The supervisor at the construction site, Irshad said that the vehicles had to stop for about 2-4 days due to snowfall.
“Earlier, it was risky to drive vehicles on the road after a snowfall as it used to get slippery. It was a major issue that has been eradicated by establishing this tunnel. A distance of 16 km is also reduced by this tunnel. The traffic use to halt for 2-4 days sometimes due to snowfall,” said Irshad.
Shefi, a construction worker at the site lauded the initiative of the government for providing a smooth passage for locals and tourists alike.