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 specific 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).
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.
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.
Pictorial representation of Survey conducted in 2 phases
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
- The Mughal road was originally known as Nimak road (salt route) before the conquest of Kashmir by Mughals.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Ali Mardan Khan also constructed Baradaries, Hamam, Mosques, Sarais and Forts on these halting stations.
- 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.