In an attempt to ease the journey of Amarnath pilgrims, the Union government is planning an all-weather, 22-kilometre-long road between Chandanwadi and Sangam, including about an 11-km-long tunnel road under the Ganesh top, documents accessed by News18 reveal. The new road will also offer an alternate route between Ladakh and Jammu, bypassing the Srinagar town.The Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has assigned its body National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) for the construction of the ‘Sheshnag Tunnel’ on the Khanabal-Baltal section of NH-501. The NHIDCL has invited Request for Proposals (RFP) and the bidding will start from February 13, 2023. The due date for the bid is February 20, 2023.According to the documents seen by News18, the work will be done in the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) mode where the government will fund the project while the private sector partner will provide the engineering and construction requirements.
The documents also say that the Project Management Consultancy (PMC) firms will be given 10 months for the preparation of Detailed Project Report and pre-construction activity will take about another two months. A period of 60 months — five years — has been earmarked for the construction of the road.The Amarnath shrine is situated at Mount Amarnath at an altitude of 13,000 feet above sea level in the upper reaches of Anantnag district in Jammu and Kashmir.Located deep inside the Himalayas in a narrow gorge at the farther end of Lidder Valley, the Amarnath cave can only be reached on foot or on a pony. Due to its difficult location, it is open to the public only during the month of Shravan around July-August.The shrine is about 40-45 km from Pahalgam and 15 kilometres from Baltal. The Baltal route is shorter but steeper while the Pahalgam route is longer but easier. The Baltal route can be covered in a day but at least four days are needed for the Pahalgam route, with night halts at Chandanwari, Sheshnag and Panchtarani.Every year, a number of devotees die on their way to the shrine. In 2022, 15 persons lost their lives due to flash floods while 42 pilgrims have died due to natural causes. Between 2016 and 2019, at least 107 people were killed during the yatra, according to the Home Ministry data.Speaking to News18, an MoRTH official said the ultimate aim of the road is to give all-weather connectivity to the region.“The road will provide all-weather connectivity to the region. This will also ease the journey of the people going towards Amarnath. Further, this will allow commuters going from Jammu towards Ladakh to by-pass Srinagar town. It will provide alternate connectivity for them,” the official said, seeking anonymity.They also said that if everything goes as per the plan, the paperwork will take about two years and the construction will begin after that.
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