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Opening of Qazigund- Banihal tunnel in limbo
Project completed a month ago, awaits GOI’s nod for inauguration
5/11/2021 12:35:51 AM
Early Times Report

Jammu, May 10: Amid the drastic spike in COVID-19 cases in Jammu and Kashmir, the opening of the much-hyped and awaited Qazigund-Banihal tunnel has been kept in limbo. There are no dates being predicted over when such a vital project will be thrown open for vehicular traffic on crucial Srinagar- Jammu National Highway.
At present, the condition of the NH-44 is such that one has to cross the Jawahar Tunnel from the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway to reach Kashmir from various parts of the country by road. The new tunnel will become an alternative to Jawahar Tunnel and that although heavy snowfall and landslides occur at many places on the highway, most of this problem comes between Banihal and Qazigund.
However, after the inauguration of the tunnel, NH44 will almost become an all-weather highway, reducing time and distance to a great extent.
The Banihal section is considered as the most treacherous of all portions due to its geology and an extensive ravine system replete with deep gorges. The traffic chaos is often throwing the highway out of the gear, halting the vehicular movement sometimes for days altogether.
Qazigund-Banihal tunnel is 8.5 km long at an elevation of 1,790 m (5,870 ft) in Pir Panjal range in J&K and is set to reduce the total distance by 16 kilometers. It is being constructed by Indian infrastructure major Navayuga Engineering Co. (NEC) at a cost of around Rs 2000 crore.
Meanwhile, the opening of this tunnel has been put on back burner by the drastic rise in COVID-19 cases in Jammu and Kashmir and in the rest of the country.
Earlier, there were reports that the tunnel will be thrown open for vehicular traffic by or before March 31 as almost all preparations for its inauguration have been completed. “More than 96 percent has been completed. There have been clear cut directions issued by the National Highways Authority of India that the remaining 4 percent of the pending work must be completed by next week so that the tunnel could be inaugurated by March 31. There are no second thoughts about it. The government is severely strict vis-à-vis the timely completion of the project,” a senior official associated with the project had earlier told this newspaper.
Reports then had informed that the four lanes had been built in the tunnel. It also has two tubes like the Jawahar Tunnel. While one is for the departure of vehicles and the other one is for their arrival. The official added that heavy and large vehicles will also be able to pass easily within the tunnel and that if one tube has to be closed for military needs, the other tube will be able to move two-sided vehicles simultaneously. According to the official, safe passage corridors have been built inside the tunnel to go from one tube to another tube after every 500 meters. They can be used in any emergency situation, said the senior official.
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