The Banihal-Qazigund tunnel is an 8.5 km road tunnel at a height of 1,790 m in the Pir Panjal range in Jammu and Kashmir, connecting the two regions, Banihal and Qazigund thus reducing the distance between Srinagar and Jammu by 16 km.
With an estimated cost of 2100 crore as stated by the officials, the work on this crucial tunnel started in 2011 by Andhra Pradesh-based ‘Navayuga Engineering Company‘ after the approval of NHAI (National Highways Authority of India).
The labor force included 1700 workers who worked round the clock for 10 years on this tunnel.
The progress of the tunnel continued even after the turmoil in the valley after the killing of Burhan Wani in 2016, revocation of Article 370 in 2019, and the pandemic induced lockdown in March 2020.
It will bypass the most difficult terrain, the Jawahar Tunnel (Elevation-2,194 m) and Shaitan Nalla, both of which are very prone to heavy snowfall and avalanche during winters.
Due to less elevation than Jawahar Tunnel, the Banihal-Qazigund tunnel is less prone to avalanche and fulfills the dream of an all-weather expressway between Srinagar and Banihal.
This tunnel thus is strategically very important in linking Kashmir through roads to the rest of the country because earlier the roads to Srinagar remained closed for 3 months due to heavy snowfall.
This project suffered major delays due to many reasons including the unexpected land condition inside the tunnel as well as issues related to local mafias and company workers.
Company members, however, attributed the difficult geographical terrain and inclement weather conditions during winters as the primary reasons for the delay.
Muneeb Tak, Chief Manager of Navayuga Engineering Company stated, “We are presently engaged in the testing commissioning process after the installation of all required equipment including ventilation and electric system.”
He further mentioned that this marvelous infrastructure has been developed using the Austrian Tunneling Method premised on the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) base system with a state-of-the-art exhaust system to remove gas and bring in fresh air.
•Double tube tunnel with two parallel tunnels- one for each direction of travel with 4 lanes, 2 per tube.
•Ventilation for extracting smoke and stale air and infusing fresh air in the tunnel.
•Internet connectivity via internet boosters throughout the 8.5 km stretched tunnel.
•Equipped with 126 jet fans, 234 CCTV cameras, and a firefighting system to ensure safety and security.
•Corridor between two tubes after every 500 meters inside the tunnel is made which can be used as an emergency exit.
The Banihal-Qazigund tunnel will benefit people in a lot of ways. Earlier the supply of commodities from the rest of the country was halted due to the closure of the national highway between Jammu and Kashmir during winters.
It is very difficult to access the hospitals for sick and pregnant women during these closures. Even the students couldn’t reach exam centers during the winters.
All of this will be solved once the tunnel is operative and available for public use. The residents of Jammu and Kashmir are eagerly waiting for the tunnel to become functional.