|The site of the launch of blasting of the Zojila tunnel in Ganderbal district.|
Union minister Nitin Gadkari on Thursday launched the blasting of the Zojila tunnel, which will provide for all-year connectivity between Jammu and Kashmir’s Srinagar valley and Ladakh’s Leh on National Highway-1 that otherwise remains closed for six months due to snowfall.
Union minister for road transport, highways and MSMEs Gadkari said that the tunnel will improve socio-economic scenario in the region and during the ceremony informed that about Rs 4,000 crore was saved with the redesigning of this tunnel. “With honest efforts, we can take our country forward at lower costs,” he said.
Gadkari also hinted towards the completion of the project before the tenure of the incumbent NDA government ends, i.e. before the scheduled period of six years.
Here is everything you need to know about the Zojila tunnel:
1. The 14.15km long tunnel will be built at an altitude of about 3000 m under Zojila pass (presently motorable only for 6 months in a year) on NH-1 connecting Srinagar and Leh through Dras & Kargil. The stretch is one of the most dangerous in the world to drive and so the project is also geo-strategically sensitive.
2. While Zojila Tunnel will be 14.15m long, the approach road’s length will be 18.63km which means the entire project’s length is 32.78 km.
3. Gadkari said this will be the longest tunnel of Asia and added that it will improve the socio-economic scenario in the region.
4. The project will make the travel on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh Section of NH-1 free from avalanches and enhance safety. It will also reduce the travel time from more than 3 hours to 15 minutes, the government said in a statement.
5. The Kargil administration has said that the tunnel will also benefit the Indian Army. The remarks come in the backdrop of India’s standoff with China People’s Liberation Army (PLA) along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Ladakh. Kargil district commissioner (DC) Baseer-ul-Haq Choudhary said the tunnel will add more teeth to the army’s defence operations in the strategic region. “It will be of great importance to the defence forces. This project shall bring to fruition 70 years of overwhelming public demand of Ladakh region,” he added.
6. Choudhary also pointed to the importance of the tunnel from tourism point of view saying, “Ladakh being a tourist destination, the tunnel will give impetus to tourism, winter sports like ice hockey, skiing and other activities.”
7. “It was a long pending demand of the people of Ladakh. It will be a strategic tunnel that will keep the region connected with the rest of India all year, not just physically, but emotionally too,” he said.
8.Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone at Leh in May 2018 but work could not progress after July 2019 as IL&FS, the firm which was given the contract, ran into financial problems. The project was terminated on January 15, 2019. In February this year, Gadkari reviewed the project and approved it afresh in May and the contract was given to Megha Engineering & Infrastructure Ltd (MEIL).