NHIDCL and IL&FS transportation signed an MoU for construction of Zojila tunnel at an estimated cost of Rs 6,808.69 crore, the government said Thursday. The tunnel will provide all weather connectivity between Srinagar, Kargil and Leh.
Zojila pass is situated at an altitude of 11,578 feet on Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National Highway which remains closed during winters (December to April) due to heavy snowfall and avalanches cutting off Leh-Ladakh region from Kashmir. “An MoU was signed yesterday between National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL) under the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways and IL&FS Transportation Networks Ltd for construction of the 14.150 km long, 2-lane bi-directional Zojila Tunnel in Jammu & Kashmir,” Ministry of Road Transport and Highways said in a statement.
The total capital cost of the project is Rs 6,808.69 crore.
This will be India’s longest road tunnel and the longest bi-directional tunnel in Asia, it said adding, the construction of this tunnel will provide all weather connectivity between Srinagar, Kargil and Leh and will bring about all round economic and socio-cultural integration of these regions.
The project has strategic and socio-economic importance and will be an instrument for the development of the economically backward districts in Jammu & Kashmir.
Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari urged the construction company to make efforts to complete the project faster than the seven years assigned for it so that its benefits can reach the people of the region at the earliest.
He also urged the company to explore whether it is technically feasible to lay railway tracks in the tunnel along with the road.
The project aims at construction of 14.150 km long two lane bi-directional single tube tunnel with a parallel 14.200 km long egress tunnel between Baltaland Minamarg in the state of J&K.
“The tunnel will be an engineering marvel, a first of its kind in such geographical area. It will have all modern technical safety arrangements such as cut and cross ventilation system, two axial fans, fully transverse ventilation system, uninterrupted power supply, CCTV monitoring, variable messaging boards, traffic logging equipment, tunnel radio, emergency telephone system etc,” the statement said.
The Cabinet on January 3 had approved strategic Zojila pass tunnel project to provide all weather connectivity to strategically important Leh region in Jammu & Kashmir, which at the moment is limited to at best 6 months in a year because of snow on the passes and threat of avalanches.
This project, along with other ongoing projects like 6.5 km long Z-Morh tunnel at Gagangir, will ensure safe, fast and cheap connectivity between the two regions of Kashmir and Ladakh.