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Poor Engineering Practices in Four-Laning of Srinagar-Jammu Highway

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The Srinagar-Jammu Highway was initially designated as National Highway one (NH-1) and was looked after by one of the units of Border Roads Organisation - the Beacon. To maintain this road was a real test of patience and wisdom of the organisation and the travellers especially during winters. Travellers getting stuck would spend days together on the road and at times without adequate arrangements of food. Women and children would be the worst casualty. Nashri, Khoni-Nallah, Panthial and Shaitani-Nallah would haunt the travellers. I in my childhood have travelled on the bypass road of the Nashri slide area which passed through the area where Baglihar dam now exists. The bypass road was so narrow and risky that travelling on this road was next to suicide. People would cry and shriek of fear at certain spots.

Now when the technology has advanced and engineering has taken a leap in multiple ways, road construction in such areas has become a common feature now. Tunnelling has eased the job for engineers because it provides a good and easy rescue while encountering the mountains.

It is said that when the tenders were floated for this ambitious project of four laning of this highway, which is now NH-44; there was poor response owing to the topography. It took four years for National Highways Authority of India to finalize the tendering process.

Somehow the process got finalised and we see the work in progress. For the easement of the process and quick accomplishment of the job, the project has been divided into many sections like Jammu to Udhampur, which has been completed, Udhampur-Chenani Section (from 67 km to 89 km) and Nashri-Ramban (from 130 km to 151-km). Ramban to Banihal (from 151-Km to 188-Km, Qazigund to Srinagar (which is almost complete). However, what pains a common man is the way the work is being executed. In its present condition it has posed a threat to the forests, to the people living on these mountains, to the river ecology, and on the whole environment.

As a standard engineering practice a job of such nature has a set protocol to follow. There are two different situations where you decide the practices for execution. One where there is no road and the other is expansion of an existing one. Both conditions have two different engineering protocols to follow. The reckless and unplanned cutting of mountains which sans the standard engineering practices, designs and norms in vogue has jeopardised the lives of scores of people inhibiting the areas lying on the top of these mountains. The cutting of mountains without following the set engineering norms and standard practices has caused the fissures on the mountain ridges up to the higher contours which locals blame can lead to the disintegration of these mountains. Baglihar dam has caused the rise in the water level along upstream of the Chenab river which caused the erosion of the mountain foot thereby endangering the whole area. Voices have been raised against the same.

Proper construction equipment and techniques are critically important for minimizing erosion from roads during and after the construction. There are clear indications that approximately eighty (80) percent of the total accumulated erosion over the life of the road occur within the first year after construction. Of that, most of it is directly linked to the construction phase.

In order to keep erosion during the construction phase to an absolute minimum, four elements must be considered.

1. Keep construction time (exposure of unprotected surfaces) as short as........

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