NATIONAL

Nine-km-long new tunnel for Jammu-Srinagar NH

The construction of the Chenani-Nashri Tunnel, a 9-km-long two-lane tunnel, on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway, will begin on Monday. It will improve the connectivity of several villages to what is the only road-link to the Kashmir Valley.

The tunnel, which will be the longest of the route, in Udhampur district, is expected to cost around Rs. 2,519 crore and will be completed in five years.

The foundation stone will be laid by Union Road Transport and Highways Minister C.P. Joshi.

Work on the four-laning of the National Highway will also begin on Monday, officials in Jammu said.

“In order to improve connectivity between Jammu and Srinagar, along with other sections of the Valley, the highway will have the 9-km tunnel. This will reduce the distance and travel time,” an official said. The 2.5-km-long Jawahar tunnel, between Banihal and Qazigund, is currently the longest tunnel on the highway.

Inaugurating a tourism festival on Sunday in Gurez, 120 km north of Srinagar, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said he would talk to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about constructing tunnels to link far-flung, hilly areas with the mainland.

“We will take up the issue of boring various tunnels as accessibility is a prerequisite for the development of the hilly and remote areas of the State [which usually remain cut off due to heavy snowfall during winter],” he said.

Mr. Abdullah said regular helicopter service also was necessary to connect these areas with the rest of the country, especially during winter. “This issue has been taken up with the Central government.”

He said his government had paid attention to the development of good roads, focusing on the construction of intra-district and intra-regional roads.

“We have already received liberal financial support from the Centre for many road projects. Our endeavour will be to seek further help for the purpose.”

Mr. Abdullah, the first Chief Minister to have driven by road from Srinagar to Dawer, Gurez, said: “I have witnessed the road condition from Bandipora to this place myself.”

“The purpose behind this was to assess the condition of the road and get first-hand appraisal of development works by interacting with the people at various places,” he said, adding that the natural beauty of Gurez needed to be showcased for global tourism.

He stressed the need to protect the environment and ecology of the area at all costs. Mr. Abdullah asked the executing agency of the Kishanganga power project to ensure employment to non-skilled youth in the area.

The Chief Minister also inaugurated a tourist complex at Dawer and granted Rs.15 lakh under the paying guest scheme for the construction of a tourist accommodation in the ‘Kanzwan' area. — PTI

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