Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari on September 28 said that the strategic Zojila Tunnel Project will be completed by December 2023, much before its earlier deadline of 2026.
The minister visited the Zojila in the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir and directed the authorities of Megha Engineering and Infrastructures, the company involved in the construction of the tunnel, to complete the tunnel before the 2024 parliamentary election.
“I am satisfied with the speed of the construction and have told the authorities to complete the construction of the approaching tunnels before May 2024, so that we can show the opposition that we have achieved,” Gadkari said, while addressing a press conference after inspecting work progress on Zojila and Z-Morh tunnel.
The union minister added that projects worth Rs 1 lakh crore are currently being implemented in Jammu and Kashmir.
“Among all the projects, six of them are the most important ones for the socio-economic development of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.
Gadkari also said that an extensive road network in the Himalayan region will help boost the tourism sector in the region. He said this will provide huge employment opportunities to the people and strengthen the economy.
Zojila Pass is the strategic link connecting the Leh-Ladakh region to Srinagar in Jammu & Kashmir, and with the rest of India. The region however does not have all-weather connectivity, especially to Leh, the capital of the Union Territory of Ladakh. This has adversely impacted the transport sector, thereby affecting the economy of the region.
Once the tunnel is completed, travel between Srinagar and Ladakh throughout the year will become possible. While the distance will be reduced (from Baltal to Minamarg) from 40 km to 13 km, travel time too will be reduced by 1.5 hours between the two Union Territories.
A connecting tunnel from Z-Morh in the National Highway-1 to Zojila tunnel will be constructed in the Zojila Ghats between Sonamarg and Kargil. The entire work is divided into two divisions in the 33 km span.
The first part involves the development and expansion of the 18.475 km highway between Z-Morh to Zojila. Along this alignment, about 3.018 km highway stretch will be expanded. The remaining portion of the highway (13.842 km) will be freshly developed. This highway consists of two twin-tube tunnels. Two snow galleries will also be built.