Controversy over J&K government's plan to revive Mughal road

The revival of a historic road should ordinarily not attract the wrath of conservationists. But in Jammu and Kashmir it did. The state government's decision to upgrade the almost five century-old Mughal Road is being opposed by conservationists who believe that it will fragment the habitat of the highly-endangered markhor goat. The Supreme Court has intervened in the matter, giving a conditional go-ahead to the state government's plans.

The 83.9-km long Mughal Road connects Shopian town in Kashmir with Poonch in the Jammu region. Its origins are said to lie in the Mughal conquest of Kashmir in 1586. Mughal forces had taken this route to conquer the Kashmir valley. The road is now being used by trekkers. The 300-km Jammu-Srinagar highway is currently the only motorable road linking the valley with the rest of the country. But maintaining it has proved a tough task for the Jammu and Kashmir government.This highway cuts across a mountainous terrain, is prone to landslides, avalanches and other natural vagaries.

In 1980, the then chief minister of the state, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, had mooted the upgradation of the Mughal Road as a supplementary road link to the highway. Construction began in 1983, but was stalled with the onset of militancy in Jammu and Kashmir.

Work on the road resumed in October 2005. The construction order was challenged almost immediately by the Kashmir-based ngo Bio-diversity Conservation Trust. In a writ petition to the Supreme Court, ngo representatives said construction work would affect the region's biodiversity