Recurring landslides hitting Jammu-Srinagar National Highway at Digdol area here have put the district administration and Traffic police in quandary. The only all-weather road that connects Kashmir with rest of the country has not been “restored fully” for the vehicular movement since last Wednesday, when several landslides blocked the highway.
And, owing to a fresh landslide that hit the highway on Tuesday morning at Digdol, around 3000 Srinagar-Jammu bound vehicles, including some 300 light motor vehicles, remained stranded on around 20 kilometers of road stretch in the Ramban district till late in the evening.
Not only the Jammu-bound vehicles, but trucks carrying essential commodities to Kashmir were stuck on the National Highway thus causing immense shortage of the commodities in the Valley in the holy month of Ramadan.
People living along the highway, particularly Ramban, Ukhral, Ramsoo, and Banihal, are the worst sufferers due to the frequent jams on the National Highway-44, as the school going children are not reaching their institutions on time and elderly citizens and patients are facing extreme hardships in reaching the hospitals.
However, the men and machinery have been working day in and day out to clear the debris from the NH-44 but the operations of road opening parties are not materializing, courtesy “ill-planned” cutting of hills at Digdol by the contractors, that has made the muck of a steep hill lose and landslide prone.
“Every time it rains, this stretch (Digdol area) witnesses landslides and heavy boulders fall on the main road. Routinely, it is followed by the clearance works. Has anyone in the administration ever tried to ascertain the reasons behind the frequent landslides? No, they haven’t,” a retired revenue official told Kashmir Post.
According to him, the local contractors dug the hills without giving slopes, which is mandatory to carry out excavations and the digging of hills at an angle of ninety degree. “This has made the entire mountains vulnerable. This (landslides and shooting stones) wouldn’t stop until and unless entire mountain caves in,” he said.
A police officer, however, said that they are planning to cut the mountain from upper side in slopes “but that would also be possible once the weather improves and incidents of shooting stones and landslides stop”.
Pertinently, after the highway remained shut for around four days in the last week, authorities had restored one-way traffic on the road from Srinagar towards Jammu since Sunday night, and several Jammu-bound vehicles crossed the Digdol stretch until Tuesday morning, when another landslide hit the highway, forcing authorities to close it for the vehicular movement.
On Tuesday the highway was closed and thrown open for the one-way movement of the vehicles several times since morning. When this report was filed, the stranded vehicles were crossing the landslide hit area at snail’s pace.
Meanwhile, Director General of Police, Dilbag Singh, along with Inspector General of Police, traffic Alok Kumar, on Tuesday visited Digdole landslide site to take stock of the situation arising due to intermittent blockade of the highway.
After reaching Chanderkote via chopper, the J&K Police chief told the traffic cops and road opening party there: “This highway is the only all-weather road that connects Kashmir with rest of the country and it shouldn’t remain closed.”
The DGP also asked the traffic police personnel to coordinate with each other and work in tandem to ensure that people don’t suffer.
The DGP was accompanied by IGP Traffic, Alok Kumar; SSP traffic, JS Johar and SSP Ramban, Anita Sharma.