Srinagar, March 20
The authorities have started massive snow clearance operation to put through the national highway, connecting Ladakh region with Kashmir valley, and historic Mughal road, closed for the past about four months while the Srinagar-Jammu national highway was through for only one-way traffic.
Meanwhile, Phirkiyan, Z-Gali and Razdan pass, linking dozens of far flung and remote areas, including those near the Line of Control (LoC) remained closed as a precautionary measure following avalanche threat in north Kashmir . However, the Sadhna pass was through for traffic.
The Border Roads Organisation (BRO), responsible for the maintainance of the Srinagar-Leh national highway, have already started snow clearance operation by pressing into service sophisticated machines early this month. The snow clearance operation was going on to put through the only road connecting Ladakh region with Kashmir, officials told UNI.
They said this winter there was very less snowfall as compared to previous years. However, due to sub zero temperature, the snow got frozen with the result road become very slippery. Now with the improvement in weather conditions, the BRO started snow clearance operation though there was still avalanche threat. It would take about two weeks to clear the snow on the road, particularly in Zojila pass, Zero point and Meenmarg. If everything goes normal, the road would be open in the first week of April, they said. The highway was closed in December last year due to accumulation of snow and slippery road conditions. Recently people at Kargil and Drass protested against the authorities alleging that despite very less snowfall this winter, no snow clearance operation was started between Sonamarg to Zojila while snow on other side of the Zojila was cleared. They demanded that entire road from Kargil to Sonmarg be handed over to district authorities Kargil.
Meanwhile, snow clearance was going on war footing to put through 86-km-long historic Mughal road, linking Shopian in south Kashmir with Rajouri and Poonch in Jammu region.
District Development Commissioner (DDC), Shopian, Mohammad Aijaz Asad said snow clearance operations on the road are going on full swing and the road will be made functional for vehicular movement soon. There is four to ten feet of snow accumulated on the road, he said adding large number of sophisticated machines have already been put into service to clear the snow. He said that Shopian to Peer Ki Gali portion of the road has been cleared of snow and rest work would be completed within a week’s time in case of suitable weather conditions. There was fresh snowfall last week, he said.
Meanwhile, hundreds of vehicles, including those carrying passengers and trucks loaded with essentials, left Jammu for Kashmir valley on Tuesday. No vehicle, including security force convoy, would be allowed from opposite direction, a traffic police official told UNI.
He said only one-way traffic will continue on the highway, the only road linking Kashmir with the rest of the country till further orders. The road is under repair at several places besides widening work is also in progress, he said adding it has been decided to allow only one-way traffic to avoid any traffic jam or accident on the highway.
Large number of people from border town of Machil protested near the office of Deputy Commissioner, Kupwara demanding reopening of road, closed last week due to snowfall. We have to bring patients and elderly persons on our shoulders from cut off villages to Kupwara due to closure of road, they said adding authorities have failed to clear the snow.
Phirkiyan and Z-Gali, remained closed for any traffic movement as a precautionary measure following avalanche threat, an official of Police Control Room (PCR) told UNI over phone from Kupwara on Tuesday. Due to closure of these passes, dozens of village, including those near LoC, remained cut off with their district headquarter. However, he said the snow clearance operation has almost been completed on the roads. However, he said since the passes through avalanche prone areas, we cannot take any risk. A fresh avalanche warning has been issued only last evening for next 24 hours, he added. A driver of BRO lost his life when a snow clearance machine came under an avalanche at Phirkiyan.
However, he said traffic was resumed on Sadhna pass on Sunday after the accumulated snow has been cleared, he said. In the first week of January 11 persons, including an official of Border Roads Organisation (BRO) were killed after they were swept away by a snow avalanche at Sadhan pass.
The Razdan pass, connecting Bandipora with border town of Gurez, Neeru and other far flung and remote villages ,mostly near LoC surrounded by Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) from three sides, remained closed since December last year due to accumulation of snow and slippery road conditions. The road is likely to reopen next month, a Police Control Room (PCR) official told UNI over phone from Bandipora. There is also a threat of avalanche in the area, he said.