The construction work on this stretch was hanging fire for the past three years in the absence of forest and environment clearances as large areas of forestland was involved. To avoid environmental degradation and cutting of hills, this highway stretch would have only two lanes.
Vikas Surjewala, Project Director of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), told The Tribune that global bids for this highway stretch were opened in New Delhi last year. The Rs 400-crore project was awarded to a private construction company and the work under the first phase between Kandhwal and 32 Miles was already in progress. Five major and nine minor bridges, besides three overpasses would be constructed. The length of the highway would reduce from 22 km to 19 km after the work on this highway stretch was completed.
Surjewala said that land had already been acquired for the project. The decision of the Central Government to grant environment clearance would ensure the early completion of the Rs 8,000-crore project, which was pending since 2018.
This 219-km four-lane road project is one of the strategic projects linking Pathankot to Leh, Ladakh and other forward areas. Considering defence requirements, the Central Government wants to complete it at the earliest. The distance between Pathankot and Mandi would reduce from 219 km to 171 km once the work on the entire road is completed.