The National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (NHIDCL) has completed the excavation of the first tube of the strategic Khellani tunnel along NH 244, an alternative road connecting Kashmir with the rest of the country.
The work on the 1.574 km tunnel, which is crucial for the Sudhmahadev- Goha-Khalleni – Chhatroo-Khanabal highway project, started on March 25, 2021, to provide alternative all-weather connectivity and shorten the distance between Doda and Kishtwar districts by 30 km, an official said.
“The breakthrough on the Khellani project was achieved on February 24 but because of the loose strata, we are in the process of stabilising it. Within another 10 days, the work will be completed and in the next 7 to 8 months, this tunnel will be made motorable,” senior site engineer, NHIDCL, Harjeet Singh told PTI.
He said the work on the second tube is also going on at a brisk pace and if everything goes as planned, the breakthrough is expected by April-end.
The Khellani tunnel, constructed at a cost of Rs 431.28 crore, will bypass the slide-prone Batote-Pul Doda which has already been declared “unsafe” due to the reservoir of Baglihar hydroelectric project.
In 2008, around half a-kilometre patch of the highway between Batote and Pul Doda washed away due to capillary action caused by Baglihar pondage, the officials said.
The management staff of APCO Infra-Tech Private Limited, which is the contractor of the Khellani tunnel project, are also positive to complete the construction of the tunnel in time after the breakthrough of one of the twin tubes of the tunnel.
“We started the work on this tunnel in March 2021 and we have completed above 85 per cent of the work and have already successfully made the breakthrough of the 1st tube. There are maximum chances that we will complete the work within time,” Assistant General Manager, Khellani Tunnel Project, Vinay Kumar Singh said.
He said the road has been planned to reduce the travelling time for the inhabitants of the Doda and Kishtwar districts and boost the economy of the area besides providing an alternate all-weather road between Jammu and Srinagar.
Doda district Vice President of BJP, Sanjay Saraf credited the local member parliament and Union Minister Jitendra Singh for his efforts in sanctioning and fast-tracking the work on the project.
“This road will change the fortunes of the people of Doda and Kishtwar as the tourism industry emerging as the mainstay of the economy of the region will surely get a major boost because visitors no longer will be compelled to ply on a dangerous and treacherous road, instead they can enjoy the shorter and safer journey,” Saraf said.