A 14.15-km Zojila tunnel in the difficult terrain of Jammu and Kashmir is now set to be a reality, with the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) clearing the Rs 6,809-crore project to be built under the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) mode. The construction of the tunnel, which might take at least seven years from the zero date of the start of construction, will provide all-weather connectivity between Srinagar, Kargil and Leh. The pass is situated at an altitude of 11,578 feet on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh highway, which remains closed for around six months due to snow and the threat of avalanches. The total capital cost, Rs 6,808.69 crore, includes the cost of land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation, and other pre-construction activities, as well as maintenance and operation costs of the tunnel for four years.
The project will be implemented by the ministry of road transport and highways (MoRT&H) through National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corp (NHIDCL). IL&FS has emerged as the lowest bidder for the project. Talking to reporters, road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari said that the ground-breaking ceremony for the project will be done by Prime Minister Narendra Modi by May-June this year. The CCEA also approved implementation of the Jal Marg Vikas Project (JMVP) for capacity augmentation of navigation on National Waterway-1 (NW-1), connecting Varanasi and Haldia, at a cost of Rs 5,369.18 crore. The project is expected to be completed by March 2023.
Gadkari said that the project would contribute in bringing down logistics costs in the country. The development of NW-1, which covers Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, would lead to direct employment generation to the tune of 46,000 and indirect employment of 84,000 people. The ministry has secured a World Bank loan of Rs 2,512 crore for the project. In addition, the government would make a contribution of Rs 2,556 crore and the remaining amount is expected to come through the private investment. The project is expected to be completed by March 2023.