Sinthan-Kishtwar Road: Forgotten Link To Paradise

Sinthan-Kishtwar Road: Forgotten Link To Paradise

3 August 2011
Greater Kashmir
Faheem Aslam

Srinagar: There is something that the people of Jammu and Kashmir have focused their attention on: completion of the 83 kms long Kishtwar- Sinthan Top road-connecting Kashmir with Doda and Kishtwar regions of Jammu province. And the reason is one: “it could give a huge fillip to the economy of a poor district like Kishtwar and also connect the Valley with the Jammu province via an alternate route.” But a ride along the road, marked by a landscape of sorts, reveals that the prized project stands forgotten, if not shelved. As you quit the main town of Kishtwar, a signboard at Kishtwar brings cheer on your face. It reads: “Sinthan Top (Kashmir) 83 kms.” As you proceed toward the place, understood to be at over 12000 ft, you get to know how official apathy has marred the project, causing a considerable degree of disappointment among people. “The work on the Chatroo-Sinthan Top stretch is off for the past few years,” says Ghulam Qadir, who runs a makeshift grocery at Chatroo. “We are desperately waiting for the opening of this road, which could become a source of livelihood for scores of people in Kishtwar and Kashmir. The idea to open this road was to ensure people-to-people contact between the two regions of the state and also give fillip to their economy. But the project has been forgotten.” The road from Kishtwar to Sinthan Top is completely dilapidated, except for a few portions which stand macadamized. Water is seen flowing over the road while rocks, which have fallen on the road as a consequence of earth blasting work, are making it considerably difficult for people to proceed. An odd one or two light motor vehicles are seen moving along the road after every half an hour or so. At some places, even the road widening work is yet to be carried out. If anything surprises you, it is the landscape. Small rivulets flow along the road amid lush green pine trees. At several places, Gujjar dokas are seen situated amid sea-green mountains and trees, making an attractive feature. “Shrines are an attraction in Kishtwar. Thousands of people from Kashmir visit these shrines every year. So the Sinthan Top-Kishtwar road could make it easy for them to travel. And it would also bring Kishtwar on the tourism map,” Qadir says. A traveller has to cover 290 kms to reach Kishtwar via the Srinagar-Jammu highway, but the Sinthan-Kishtwar road reduces the distance considerably. The GREF, a subsidiary of the BRO, had been working on the project which would not only shorten the distance between Kishtwar and Islamabad (Anantnag) by six hours but also provide an alternative to the Srinagar-Jammu highway, which generally turns hostile during winter. Some years back, the road would be fair-weather, with the J&K Government deciding to have funding from Ministry of Surface Transport to upgrade the road as an “alternate Srinagar-Jammu highway.” While the GREF did some work initially, they stopped it later for unknown reasons. The Ministry has already declared the road as National Highway 1B. While it is argued that the work on the road was stopped a few years back in the wake of killing of five BRO personnel, including a Lieutenant Colonel by unidentified gunmen at Sinthan, officials argue it should not become a cause of suspension of work. “It there are any security concerns, they ought to be taken care of by the concerned quarters. But that should nevertheless lead to suspension of work,” says an official in the Roads and Buildings Department. “It is important to understand the importance of this road in terms of tourism potential and easy people-to-people contact between different regions of the state.” WORK HAS BEEN STARTED: DC When contacted, the Deputy Commissioner Kishtwar, MH Malik said: “The work on the road has been restarted. There is no denying the fact that you will have to give officials working on the road a sense of safety and security which we are doing. But since we have a limited working season in the state, it causes problems sometimes. Rest, the deadline for the road is March 2013 and the BRO is aware of that. There is a huge work to be carried out which shall be possibly done within the allotted time frame.”


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