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Cracks in homes and shattered dreams: Cost of Z-Morh tunnel in Gagangir

Gagangir, a small village nearly 70 kilometres from Srinagar, is facing a challenging situation due to an ongoing construction project.

By Wahid Bhat
New Update
Cracks in homes and shattered dreams: Cost of Z-Morh tunnel in Gagangir

Gagangir, a small village nearly 70 kilometers from Srinagar, is facing a challenging situation due to an ongoing construction project. The construction of the Z-Morh tunnel has caused cracks in nearly 100 homes in the village. These cracks have caused fear and uncertainty among residents since their homes have been significantly affected.

Just a few days ago, a landslide made things even worse. Some houses suffered further cracks due to the landslide. The construction of a tunnel has caused many problems for the villagers.

Fear and Uncertainty

Muzaffar Ahmad, a resident of Gagangir, expressed his concerns regarding the ongoing construction of the Z-Morh Tunnel in the area, saying, “Ever since the construction began, our homes have been continuously facing blasting, which has caused cracks in them.”

Muzaffar elaborated, “The blasting feels like being in a war zone. Additionally, the new road construction is increasing our troubles, with frequent falling rocks endangering our safety. Our agriculture is also being affected, leading to significant losses.”

The construction of the Z-Morh Tunnel, intended to enhance connectivity and access in the region, has brought hardship to the lives of the villagers.

The Z-Morh Tunnel project, spanning 6.5 kilometers, was initiated in May 2021 to ensure uninterrupted access between Srinagar and Kargil, especially during harsh winter conditions.

A collaborative effort between the National Highway Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL) and APCO Infratech Private Limited, the project’s objectives are to eliminate challenges caused by snowfall and heavy snowstorms, which often render the existing route impassable for nearly seven months each year.

Sharing the pain, Javed Ahmad said, “May Allah save us! When the blasting occurs, it feels like an earthquake has struck our homes and land. The 4-meter blasting results in significant damage to our property. Can you see what the blasts have done to my house? We are surviving here only by the grace of Allah because so far, the authorities have not fulfilled any of our demands. They have ignored all our requests, and we have no other option but to abandon our rights to our homes and land.”

Expressing concern over a recent landslide, he added, “There was a landslide here yesterday. Can you see how much danger we are in? There have been similar landslides on the road to Kullan. We are in danger both inside and outside our homes.”

Speaking about the impact on livelihoods, he said, “Our agriculture used to be fruitful, but now it has greatly reduced due to pollution from the tunnel. There used to be employment opportunities here.”

The tunnel construction has permanently exacerbated the negative effects, as the construction activities and related pollution have reduced agricultural yields.

Homes damaged lives shattered

Mushtaq Ahmad, another local resident of Gaganir, speaking to Ground Report said "Allah save us! When the blasting occurs, it feels as if an earthquake hits our homes and land. They carry out 4-meter blasts, and as a result, our properties suffer extensive damage. Can you see what has happened to my house due to the blasts? We are surviving here solely by the grace of Allah as the authorities have not met any of our demands till date. They have ignored all of our requests, and we may have no choice but to abandon our rightful ownership of houses and land."

He further added, "Yesterday, a landslide occurred here. Can you see the risk we are facing? Even the road up to Kullan has witnessed such landslides. We are at risk both inside and outside our homes."

The project brings losses, no benefits

Javid said "This project has brought us no benefits, only losses. Before this project, everything was fine with our homes and land, but since the tunnel construction began, we have suffered significant damage. We are only surviving by the grace of Allah."

He also mentioned the impact of tunnel construction on their livelihoods, saying, "Our farmland used to flourish before, but now it has drastically reduced due to the pollution caused by the tunnel. There used to be employment opportunities here."

Village life amidst the ongoing construction of the Z-Morh tunnel project. Photo Credit: Wahid Bhat/Ground Report

The negative impact of the tunnel construction extends beyond the structural damage. Construction activities, accompanied by the release of pollutants and dust, have resulted in reduced agricultural yields.

Cracked houses and shattered dreams

Mukhtar Ahmad Chowhan, another affected resident said, "Since the start of this tunnel construction, whenever blasting occurred, our house, which is very close to the tunnel, developed numerous cracks. We used to evacuate the house during those times. Moreover, when their roller machine operates on the road, the vibrations would shake our entire house, resembling an earthquake."

Resident Mukhtar Ahmad Chowhan recounts the continuous cracking in his house and earthquake-like vibrations caused by the construction of the Z-Morh tunnel. Photo Credit: Wahid Bhat/Ground Report

He expressed his fear and frustration, stating that despite repeatedly requesting assistance from the company, they have not received any help or support. The residents have only experienced negative consequences without any positive outcomes. The tunnel project has adversely affected various aspects of their lives, including agriculture, health, and water resources.

Mukhtar added that the company has not shown any concern for their well-being, and their actions have resulted in accumulating four inches of dust inside their homes, without any compensation or relief provided.

Mukhtar claimed that the company only prioritizes those who can offer financial gains while disregarding the welfare of underprivileged residents.

Gagangir's Daily Battle

The Z-Morh Tunnel project, which initially promised to bring progress and development to the region, has left a trail of cracked houses, shattered dreams, and traumatized the community.

Houses show visible cracks caused by the Z-Morh tunnel project. Photo Credit: Wahid Bhat/Ground Report

The stories shared by Muzaffar, Javid, Hanifa, Mukhtar and other villagers reveal the difficulties they face every day. Their homes and livelihoods are in jeopardy, affecting their well-being, both physical and emotional.

Ground Report tried to contact APCO Infratech Pvt. Ltd several times but have not heard from them. If APCO responds, we'll update the story.

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