Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 19, 2018 unveiled a plaque to mark the commencement of work on the Zojila Tunnel in Jammu and Kashmir’s Leh district.
The project, worth Rs 6,809 crore, will be India’s longest and Asia’s longest and strategic bi-directional tunnel, which will provide all-weather connectivity between Jammu and Kashmir’s Srinagar, Kargil and Leh districts. It will be finished within five years.
Speaking on the occasion, the Prime Minister said that he has asked the concerned Ministry to look into ways to reduce the time for the completion of the project. He added saying that the strategically important tunnel will lead to an all-round economic and socio-cultural integration of these regions.
Key Features of Zojila Tunnel
• The tunnel aims to provide safe, fast and cheap connectivity. It will reduce the travel time between Srinagar and Leh to 15 minutes from the current 3.5 hours.
• It will provide all-weather connectivity to the region. The project has strategic and socio-economic importance and shall be an instrument for the development of the economically backward districts in Jammu and Kashmir.
• It will be the longest bi-directional tunnel in Asia. The construction of the tunnel will take around five years given the difficult terrain, as in some areas the temperature dips to minus 45 degree celsius.
• The project aims at construction of 14.15 km long two-lane bi-directional single tube tunnel with a parallel 14.2 km long egress tunnel excluding approaches between Baltal and Minamarg in the state.
• It is being implemented by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRT&H) through the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL).
The project will increase the employment potential for the local labourers for the project activities.
Upon its completion, it will lead to an enormous boost in employment as local businesses will get linked to National market and the beautiful region will be able to receive tourists all year round.
The civil construction cost of the project would amount to about Rs 4,899.42 crore.
The total capital cost of the project will be around Rs 6,808.69 crore, which includes the cost towards land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation and other pre-construction activities as well as maintenance and operation cost of the tunnel for four years.
The Zoji La pass, situated at an altitude of 11,578 feet on Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National Highway, remains closed during winters due to heavy snowfall which cuts off the Ladakh region from Kashmir.
The pass is strategically important for the entire Kargil sector. Hence, its inaccessibility during winters makes it especially difficult for the Defence forces to transport supplies to the border posts in the region.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by PM Modi had in January 2018 approved the construction of the tunnel in the state, keeping in mind that Srinagar, Kargil and Leh remain cut-off from the rest of the world during winters (December to April) due to heavy snowfall.
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