The Making of Mughal Road

Project Summary:

Mughal Road Project is located in the state of Jammu & Kashmir and falls in the Pir-Panjal ranges joining Poonch and Shopian districts. It connects the Poonch and Shopian districts at a longitude of 74-22’ & 74-50’ and latitude of 33-37’ & 33-43’. The length of the road is 83.90 kms.

 

Historically, the route was traversed by the armies of Mughal Emperor’s Akbar, Jahangir and Shahjahan. Now, after a period of 424 years, the Mughal Road will come alive once again as an alternative road linking the border territories of Jammu & Kashmir to the rest of the nation.

 

Apart from serving as an alternate highway between Srinagar and Jammu the Mughal Road will also create an environment, which would help to facilitate greater inter-regional culture and economic exchanges. The geographical isolation of the specifi c areas, which discouraged people-to-people contact will end and greater economic activity between the regions would follow, especially in respect of Poonch and Rajouri districts which has remained cut off from direct contact with the valley for the last 57 years.

 

The construction of Mughal road forms part of the state government’s development plan with support from the GOI (PM’s Package).

 

A Brief History:

 

During ancient times, the Mughal Road was abuzz with traffic of the caravans of Mughal emperors and their armies to keep control of Kashmir. It was used for travel to the Kashmir valley for administration and hence named – `Mughal Road’.

 

Keeping in view the growing needs of transport and the fact that Srinagar-Jammu NH1A remains frequently closed to traffic due to landslides, Mughal Road was identified as an alternative communication link between Jammu & Srinagar. The project was launched in 1969 and several attempts were made by the government to execute the work. Finally, the State Government decided to handover the construction of Mughal Road to BRO in 1988-89. But the work was abandoned when insurgency broke-out in the state in 1990.

 

Finally, in September 2000 it was decided that the Government would execute the project directly and directed JKPCC to prepare a Detailed Project Report. In 2001, JKPCC hired the services of M/s RITES who approached Survey of India (SOI) & National Remote Sensing Agency (NRSA) for Satellite Imagery.

 

M/s RITES prepared a feasibility report and proposed a total cost of Rs 159.00 Crs. The report was submitted in 2002 to the Government. The case was taken up with MOST in 2003 for necessary approvals. The cost of Rs 159.00 Crs as projected above is based on the M/s RITES Feasibility Report of 2001 on the basis of 1998-BRO Schedule of Rates. Accordingly, the said 83.90 Kms bituminous road was put to tender in June 2005 under the Prime Minister’s reconstruction programme. This led to the award of contract to M/s Hindustan Construction Co. Ltd, Mumbai at Rs 214.40 Crs.

 

 

Snow cutter

Salient features of Mughal Road:

 

Name of the project: Mughal Road {Bafliaz (Poonch) to Shopian (Pulwama)}

 

Scope of Work: Surveying, Investigating, Designing, Planning & Execution of Mughal road from

Bafliaz (Poonch) to Shopian (Pulwama)

 

Brief description of the project: Two-lane bituminous pavement road of length 83.90 km including widening & strengthening of existing carriageway

 

Name, Designation of Employer: The Governor of Jammu & Kashmir, Jammu / Srinagar

 

Contract Value: Rs. 452.77 Crores (Rs 341.04 Crs – Pure work)

 

Time for Completion: 3 years from the start date for 214.40 Crs Another 2 years for additional work of 126.64 Crs

 

No. of working fronts: Two Fronts i.e. Bafliaz & Shopian

Bafliaz (Ch: 0+000), Shopian (Ch: 83+900)

 

Major Specifications: Carriage way width = 7.00 mtrs

No. of RCC Slab Culverts = 379 no’s

No. box culverts = 5 no’s

No. of minor permanent bridges = 13 no’s

 

No. of months available: Net 6 months available for working in a year

(May to November in a year – 1 month monsoon)

Standard codes followed in design of the road: Road design as per: IRC:52-2001 & IRC:SP:48-1998

CD works design as per: IRC:SP:13-2004

Pavement Design as per: IRC:37-2001

 

 

15 Snow

Challenges Encountered in Project execution:

 

Significant challenges were posed by the limited working season, severity of the winter and also the inaccessible steep hilly gradient along sections of the project route. These scenarios demanded utmost precaution and precision of movement of equipment. Despite all the odds, the HCC project team displayed tremendous courage, application and out-of-the-box thinking to successfully execute the project.

 

Survey:

The Mughal road alignment passes through a minimum elevation of 5400 ft at Bafliaz and a maximum elevation of 11,500 ft at Pir Ki Gali. The road excavation had to be carried out in a virgin cut of the hill as per the alignment finalized / approved by the Client. The road way was accessible for a length of 20 km on the Shopian side and 14 km on the Bafliaz side at the time of award of Contract. The remaining portion of the alignment of approximate 54 km was inaccessible.

 

The Survey team started working from both Shopian and Bafliaz sides. The survey team could conduct the survey up to 29 km on the Shopian side and up to 28 km on the Bafliaz side in Phase-I. In Phase-II, a special survey team was deployed to complete the survey for the rest of the portion which as very rigorous. One team was stationed at Aliabad Sarai, around 34 km from Shopian and they completed the survey up to Pir-Ki-Gali. In a similar manner, the second team was stationed at Chattapani, around 33 kms from Bafliaz and they completed the survey till Pir-Ki-Gali.

 

The area between 20km from Shopian and 11 km from Bafliaz is a complete no man’s land. There is no electricity available and also no mobile connectivity. The conditions were very similar to an army operation. The survey teams worked very rigorously in these adverse conditions. They took up the challenge of overcoming the elevation factor, bad weather conditions, remoteness and other security barriers. Despite these challenging conditions, the survey was completed by September 2007.

 

 

Excavation Challenges:

 

On the Bafliaz side, the team encountered thick and dense forest from 27km and the survey team had to proceed 0.5 kms ahead of the excavation team for pegging-down the alignment along with the client representatives. Whereas, on the Shopian side, the team encountered vertical cliffs in smaller lengths and deep gorges. At Lalghulam region, which is 31 kms from Shopian, the team faced a huge vertical cliff which posed a challenge for stationing the vertical drills for drilling the hard rock, as there was no space. It became a stumbling block for single lane connectivity in Shopian sector.

 

The project team came up with a solution of moving excavators from the top of the hill on the opposite side to cross this huge cliff. So the excavators were marched from Sukh Sarai (around 22 kms from Shopian) to Aliabad Sarai with utmost precaution and precision. The movements of excavators were measured precisely as the track was going through a steep gradient of 65-70° to horizontal. After careful marching of one week, the excavators landed at Aliabad Sarai and excavators started working in the Pirpanjal ranges from km 34.25 km 40.5. High Speed Diesel and other lubricants were carried to these locations on ponies with a load of 40 ltrs each per trip to keep the excavators functioning.

 

Meanwhile the front heading team at Lalghulam traced out a path on the hill side and reached the top of the vertical cliff and started the excavation from the top. The entire HCC team reached Pir-Ki-Gali on December 3, 2008 to experience the sunset at 6.30pm at 11,500 ft elevation and single lane connectivity was established. By the end of 2011, around 1.30 lacs cum of hard rock excavation was completed on this particular stretch of 150 mtrs and in November 2011, double lane connectivity was established to full width and grade on this stretch.

 

On the other side of the Mughal Road i.e. on Bafliaz side, the team deployed 2 compressors and around 60 labourers for manual excavation from Pir-Ki-Gali to Bafliaz. This was a critical activity for making a platform for positioning the excavators on top of Pir-Ki-Gali. After completion of the manual excavation, the excavators were moved in a similar manner to that of the Shopian modul (from the hill track on the opposite side) and 8 excavators completed the excavation by end of November 2011. The single lane connectivity was made from Bafliaz to Pir-Ki-Gali on November 27, 2011 which was made open to the locals from Poonch & Rajouri regions.

 

Climatic Challenges:

 

Since the project corridor falls in the Himalayan ranges, the intensity of the cold is quite severe especially in the snow season i.e. from December till April every year. The mercury dips to sub-zero levels of around -10°C to -15°C. The water supply pipelines (GI pipes) crack due to the freezing of water at night and subsequently, the water supply would get affected during these months. The project team stationed at Bafl iaz and Shopian camps had to meticulously plan for the work and resources utilization for the next working season.

 

 

Innovation:

 

Snow clearance is a routine activity carried out at all the Himalayan projects. Every year, during March and April, the accumulated snow needs to be cleared over the alignment to restart the work of the Mughal Road. The pavement layers are executed only after evaporation of the moisture in the formation width. Our engineers designed and executed an innovative, low-cost mechanism for snow clearance from the roads. A dumper was fi tted with a fabricated snow-clearing devise which has many advantages: It can be used on any type of road surface. Its fabrication and operating cost is very low and the snow clearing operation is easy and fast.

 

Safety & Security concerns:

 

The Project corridor was known for its high militancy prone activities. Once the military patrolling was completed and the clearance was given to HCC, only then would the equipment and the workmen would start functioning at their respective locations. This situation continued till the end of 2007. Extended hours of functioning were completely restricted in both the sectors. Round the clock operation could not be implemented due to these peculiar security concerns.

 

Logistics:

 

Due to the prevailing security scenario, the explosives required for the hard rock excavation were stored in nearby police stations. In Bafliaz, the explosives were stored in Surankote Police station, around 15 kms from Bafliaz towards Poonch. In Shopian sector; a separate police station was constructed at Hirpora by HCC and handed over to the local administration. The blasting operation had to be conducted under the strict supervision of the local police who accompanied the HCC blasting team on regular basis.

 

 

Psychological Conditioning:

 

The remoteness of the project site was a major concern. Recruitment of the officers / engineers became a major challenge. Initially, the non-availability of mobile connection in the Shopian sector and non-availability of landline and mobile connection on the Bafliaz side generated loneliness. In order to retain the officers / engineers, HCC had to bear additional expenditure towards keeping the whole team with HCC during the snow season.

 

A major portion of the works was of RR Masonry, and this required 800 no’s (Mason + Labour) every year. Labour required for the masonry works was deployed from Doda, Kistwar and Surankote regions. Labour could not be hired from other states because of the elevation factor and acclimatization concerns. Hence, project was completely dependant upon the local labour only.

 

Public impact of Mughal Road:

 

Earlier, the border districts of Rajouri-Poonch were accessible only via Jammu. One had to take a long detour via Jammu to reach Srinagar. The Mughal Road will shorten the distance between Poonch and Srinagar by 67% – from 541 km to 174 km, i.e. a reduction of 367 km – translating into lessening of 25 hours of travel time. This road will end the geographical isolation of this region and help create an environment of greater interregional culture and economic exchange. The Poonch and Rajouri districts will benefit from the medical and educational facilities available in the Kashmir valley. In addition, the cost of commodities will become cheaper. This road will boost commercial avenues in the border districts of Poonch-Rajouri, open up the tourism potential of the Pir Panjal region and improve the economic condition and life style of the people.

DSC00605

Current Project Status:

 

The entire 83.9 km length of the Mughal Road has been completed in all respect including the asphalting. There are a few bridges under construction which does not fall into HCC’s scope of work and are being built by another company. Normal traffic has been plying on the road over the last eight months.

 

 

Fascinating facts:

 

-The Mughal road was originally known as Nimak road (salt route) before the conquest of Kashmir by Mughals because salt was exported to Kashmir from Western Punjab via this route. It was a pedestrian road where only ponies and horses could passed through.

-With the conquest of Kashmir by Emperor Akbar in 1586 AD this road gained in importance because it was the shortest route between Lahore and Srinagar. Emperor Akbar has visited Mughal Road twice, Jahangir 13 times, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb once in their lifetime. With the movement of Mughal caravans, the small pedestal path was converted into a wide road which was fit for the movements of elephants, camels, loaded animals, Mughal forces and caravans.

 

-For the first time the widening work on this road was started in 1587 AD on the eve of the first visit of Emperor Akbar to Kashmir. As per Iqbalnama Akbari, 10000 labourers and masons worked day and night on this road for months together before the visit of Emperor Akbar. However, the main work took place during the period of Emperor Jahangir. He had ordered an Iranian Engineer Ali Mardan Khan for the construction of Mughal road, Sarais, Mosques, Baradaries, Hamams alongside the road for the conveyance of the royal caravans of the Mughal.

 

-Ali Mardan Khan divided Mughal road into 14 Paraves (halting stations) from Lahore to Srinagar which was 246 mile long route. But the actual Mughal road orginated from Gujrat town which was 70 mile away from Lahore and 176 mile from Srinagar. The main halting stations constructed on this road were Gujarat, Bhimber, Saidpur, Nowshera, Chingus, Rajouri, Thanamandi, Bheramgala, Poshiana, Aliabad Sarai, Hirpur, Shopian, Ramu, and Kanakpura. The interval between each station was varying from 10 to 15 miles keeping in view the geographic conditions of the area. The journey from one station to another was completed in one day.

 

-Ali Mardan Khan also constructed Baradaries, Hamam, Mosques, Sarais and Forts on these halting stations while the natives constructed their houses around these stations with the help of local Rajas and Mughal Governors. In this manner, small townships on almost all the halting stations had emerged during Mughal period and this road had become the centre of hustle-bustle.

 

-The decision for the construction of the 84 kilometer Mughal Road from Bufliaz Poonch to Shopian Kashmir was taken in 1978 by the then Chief Minister Sheik Mohammad Abdullah to provide an alternate route to Kashmir valley. However, the work started in 1981. The original cost of the road was Rs 18 crore. The work was started on both the sides from Shopian and Bufliaz for which two Mughal road divisions were created. After the death of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah in 1982, the pace of work slowed down. Finally, this road was suspended in 1985 due to some observations of the Defense Ministry. Keeping in view the chronic public demand the construction of the Mughal Road was included as part of then Prime Minister’s Reconstruction Programme during 2005. Two Mughal road divisions were revived at Surankote and Hirpur under the supervision of a Superintending Engineer with a station at Srinagar. Mufti Mohammad Sayed, who was the CM of J&K then, laid the foundation stone for restarting the work at Bufliaz and Hirpur on October 1, 2005, but the actual work was started during February 2006.

 

-Mughal road has also gained in importance with the opening of the Poonch-Rawalakote road and trade across the LOC. The fruit growers of Shopian and Pulwama shall be able to export their fruits to POK via the Mughal road-Poonch-Rawalakote road which directly links the six districts of POK : namely Bagh, Sudhnutti, Rawalakote, Kotli, Bhimber and Mirpur. Therefore, it is expected that new townships, colonies, hotels and restaurants shall rapidly come up on the Mughal road from Bufliaz to Shopian for the convenience of tourists and travelers.

 

-The eight hour journey on the Mughal Road showcases the attractive scenery of Noorichum, Ratachum, Pir Marg, Aliabad, Sukh Sarai valley and Dubjan enroute. There are a number of lush green areas, high pasturelands and scenic spots along side the Mughal Road from Pir Pass (12000 feet) to Rattan Pir (8600 feet). On the other hand Dubjan, Sukh Sarai Valley, Aliabad and Pir Marg also fall on this road on the Kashmir side. These virgin hill stations and nature blessed spots shall be a visual treat for the tourists. A number of peaks around the road like Tatakuti, Ganga Choti, and Kagalana shall be the point of attraction for the climbers. There are a number of passes which are suitable for trekking purpose.

 

-The valley of seven lakes like Nandansar, Chandansar, Neelsar and so on located on the upper reaches of Pir Panchal in between 12000 feet to 15000 feet above the sea level is only seven kilometer from Aliabad sarai.

 

-The unique cultural heritage of the nomadic tribes of Pir Panchal region, their traditions, dresses, distinct lifestyle, melodious folklore, shrines, sarais and ruins of Mughal period shall boost the heritage tourism in the region.

 

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