The Jammu Srinagar highway is the lifeline of the Kashmir Valley, as this is the only road connecting Kashmir Valley to the rest of India. Hence, it is important to expand the road to meet the growing demands of the highway. Currently, the road is 2-lane, which is going to be expanded to a 4-lane highway, bypassing all snow-points and landslide-prone areas. Hence, several tunnels are being built along the highway to bypass critical points.
One such tunnel, at the Khoni Nallah area of Ramban district of Jammu, caved in on Thursday, 19th May, trapping at least 10 people inside. 3 others had been rescued injured, and were rushed to hospital in Jammu. None of the 10 people trapped survived, their bodies have been recovered as of 21st May. Among the deceased, 5 were from West Bengal, 2 from Nepal, 1 from Assam, and 2 were locals.
The question arises here is why do tunnels cave-in after being built. Tunnel cave-ins are not very rare, and they can occur, especially in places where the soil is very loose, muddy, or earthquake-prone. Here the patch where the tunnel was being constructed lies on a poor soil strata. This stretch of Jammu Srinagar highway in Ramban district is most prone to landslides, and it is alleged that a big landslide at the mouth of the tunnel trapped the workers working inside. Despite technical advancement in tunnel building, it was not possible to do away with this kind of accidents, as it happened in this case. However, some also point out negligence by the contractor company, and an FIR has been lodged at Ramban police station.
In terms of safety, most tunnels are quite safe, especially the fully constructed ones. Most tunnels have a large number or safety features added in them in their design, which makes chances of landslides or cave-ins nearly zero. However, during construction, poor rock formation and geological strata is still a challenge for the engineers.
Written by – Himadri Paul