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, stating,

“Ever since the construction started, our homes have been subjected to continuous blasting. Now, cracks have appeared in our houses”.

Tunnel construction causes damage, leaving Gagangir residents distraught. Photo Credit: Wahid Bhat/Ground Report

Muzaffar added “Whenever blasting occurs, it feels as if a war is raging. Moreover, the new road that has been constructed is causing us even more trouble. We are experiencing frequent rockfalls, posing a risk to our safety. Our farmland is also being affected, resulting in significant losses.”

The construction of the Z-Morh Tunnel, which aims to improve connectivity and accessibility in the region, has inadvertently brought anguish to the lives of the villagers.

The construction of the Z-Morh Tunnel, a 6.5-kilometre-long tunnel project, started in May 2021 and aims to ensure continuous connectivity between Srinagar and Kargil, especially during the harsh winter season.

The joint effort between the National Highway Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL) and APCO Infratech Pvt Ltd is intended to address the challenges posed by avalanches and heavy snowfall, which frequently result in the closure of the existing road for nearly seven months every year.

Homes damaged lives shattered

Javid 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.”

Cracks in the wall reveal the cost of building the Z-Morh tunnel, raising anxiety and uncertainty among the residents of Gagangir. Photo Credit: Wahid Bhat/Ground Report

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.

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Unheard voices

Hanifa Bano, her voice trembling with anxiety and despair, expressed her sleepless nights and constant fear caused by the ongoing Z morh tunnel project.

She said, “We couldn’t sleep peacefully at night due to the continuous blasting, and now our house has cracks. We live in constant fear that it might collapse anytime, and we will be buried beneath it. This fear gives me headaches every day. As poor people, we have no one to turn to for help. You can see the state of our kitchen, how the blasting has caused the cement to crumble and fall apart.”

She went on to describe the state of disrepair in her kitchen, where the impact of the blasting has caused the concrete to crumble and crumble.

Hanifa Bano shares her sleepless nights and crumbling kitchen as the Z-Morh tunnel project takes its toll. Photo Credit: Wahid Bhat/Ground Report

She added “Her daily life revolves around this constant fear, not knowing if she can safely accompany her children from school. The many cracks in her home serve as a reminder that even a slight tremor, similar to a sudden earthquake, could leave them defenseless within the crumbling walls”.

The tunnel project, initially conceived as a pathway to development, has become a source of anguish and hardship for Gagangir residents. Their lives have been turned upside down and their once-serene town now bears the scars of construction-related damage.

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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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  • Wahid Bhat

    Wahid Bhat is an environmental journalist with a passion for covering climate change and environmental issues. He holds a degree in English Journalism (EJ) from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication and has received Media Fellow for NFI India (National Foundation for India) and Thomson Reuters Foundation. Wahid's reporting has been published in a range of respected outlets including Earth Journalism, Global Village Space, The Quint, Youth Ki Awaaz, and Devdiscourse

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