Zojila Tunnel in Jammu and Kashmir, the construction of which has today been approved by PM Modi-led Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, is an upcoming project which aims at providing all weather connectivity between Srinagar, Kargil and Leh. This excludes approaches on Srinagar-Leh section connecting NH-1A at Km 95.00 and at Km 118.00 in Jammu & Kashmir, the government says. The Zojila tunnel project has been approved on the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) mode. The gamechanging infrastructure project will comprise a 14.15 km long two lane bi-directional single tube tunnel with a parallel 14.200 km long egress tunnel excluding approaches between Baltal & Minamarg in J&K.
According to the government, the project holds strategic and socio-economic significance, especially given the fact that the region of Leh has limited connectivity for as many as 6 months of the year due to threat of avalanches. The long awaited project will be executed by Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRT&H) through National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) and will take minimum seven years to complete. The total capital cost of the project is estimated to be around Rs 6808.69 crore. This will also include the cost towards land acquisition, resettlement & rehabilitation and other pre-construction activities as well as maintenance and operation cost of tunnel for four years. According to the government, the construction of approaches for the Zojila tunnel will be undertaken separately.
The estimated time period for construction of Zojila Tunnel is seven years, which will have tremendous significance for its economic development as it will benefit the nearby backward districts in Jammu and Kashmir. The government hopes that the implementation of the Zojila tunnel will generate massive job opportunities among local residents and due to better road connectivity between Kashmir and Ladakh, the tourism industry will also witness commendable traffic throughout the year, which will successfully boost the state economy.
Zojila tunnel project, along with the ongoing Z-Morh tunnel project at Gagangir, which is 6.5 km long, will provide connectivity between Kashmir and Ladakh. The Zojila tunnel is a project that has long been stuck for lack of private sector interest. But a few months ago IL&FS reportedly said that it has emerged as the lowest bidder for the project. The development comes within months of the Chenani-Nashri tunnel opening in Jammu and Kashmir. Said to be Asia’s longest, the two-lane Chenani-Nashri tunnel is 10.0 kilometres long. This tunnel has cut the distance between Jammu and Srinagar by 100 km. The all-weather tunnel has also reduced the distance between Chenani and Nashri to 9.2km from 41km.