Well known fact is that the Lolab valley has an immense tourism potential and could be a perfect tourist destination with the connectivity of Bandipora. It is 30 kilometers from Bandipora via Aaloosa village if a road is constructed and just four kilometers away if connected with a tunnel.

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AIJAZ  KHAN

            Though the locals in North Kashmir have been demanding since years that the construction of a tunnel that would connect Lolab valley with Ban- dipora must be approved, the project is gathering dust with GOI in no mood so far to approve the plan. ‘Expression of Interest’ for con- ducting feasibility studies of the pro- posed Lolab Bandipora tunnel was floated in January 2012 and bids for the same were received. The lowest bid received in this regard was for an amount of rupees 25.30 crores. The state government in view of what it termed ‘huge requirement’ of funds could not conduct the feasibility stud- ies. The validity of the bid also got expired later.

       During the current financial year also, no amount has been earmarked for the said purpose due to resource constraints. The state government here has earlier claimed that it has been repeatedly flagging the issue with the GOI but the approval has not matured yet. The reports earlier maintained that he tunnel, which the locals have been demanding since years, will provide them all season convenient connectivity to enhance trade and tourism activities in the region. The project to link the two adjoining districts (Kupwara and Bandi- pora) via Lolab through a tunnel has been shelved sans any reason with the locals maintaining that it was the political neglect that became one of the major reasons for the spoiling of the project. Well known fact is that the Lolab valley has an immense tourism potential and could be a perfect tourist destination with the connectivity of Bandipora. It is 30 kilometers from Bandipora via Aaloosa village if a road is constructed and just four kilo- meters away if connected with a tun- nel. The R&B department earlier in its report submitted to the state govern- ment over teh tunnel project has stat- ed that if the tunnel is constructed, the Lolab residents shall be able to reach Bandipora, covering a distance of 04 kilometers in 15 minutes, which is otherwise 85 kilometers away via Sopore route.

          The report had at that time in- formed further that the tunnel would provide shorter and viable connectivity with Kupwara as well as with summer capital Srinagar that would help in exploiting tourism potential of vir- gin Lolab valley and to bring it on the tourism map of Kashmir. Lolab-Bandipora tunnel has been till date an unrealised dream for the people.

       The locals are mainly up in arms against the state authori- ties over shelving the project. “Some work in the past years was initiated and it created a hope amoung us that something better would happen in the coming days. We were later dis- appointed as the work was abruptly stopped and the government didn’t site any reason,” says Ghulam Mohi- ud-din Khan, a Lolal resident. The PDP leader and MLA Lolab Abdul Haq Khan who won the state elections from the place said that he several times has raised the issue of the tunnel on the floor of the house but the past government seemed reluctant in approving this important project. “The tunnel would provide easy access to the people of entire north Kashmir region . It will bring to- gether Lolab and Bandipora. In 2013, government through R&B advertised a tender notice for the construction of two-lane tunnel from Anderbugh Lolab (district Kupwara to Chechnar (district Bandipora). The work included surveying, geotech investigation, preparation of DPR, design, drawings and supervision. It was later stopped without any reason.” The report submitted by the R&B informed that the Lobab Bandipora tunnel will reduce around 50 kilo- meters of distance from Lolab to Srinagar.