Asia’s longest bi-directional tunnel road to be built in J&K, Here’s everything you need to know

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The Union Cabinet has approved the construction of Asia’s longest bi-directional Zojila Pass tunnel, which will reduce the travel time on the Zojila pass patch between Srinagar and Leh to 15 minutes from the current 3.5 hours.

The decision has been taken keeping in mind that Srinagar, Kargil and Leh remain cut-off from the rest of the world due to heavy snowfall during winters (December to April). The project will reduce the travel time between Srinagar and Leh to 15 minutes from the current 3.5 hours with providing all-weather connectivity to the region. Zojila Pass tunnel will be Asia’s longest 2-lane bi-directional pass.

Here is everything you need to know about the project:

— 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.

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— The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, gave its approval to the construction, operation and maintenance of 2-lane bi-directional Zojila Tunnel with Parallel Escape (Egress) Tunnel excluding approaches on Srinagar-Leh section connecting NH-1A at Km 95 and at Km 118 in Jammu and Kashmir on engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) mode.

— The construction of the tunnel will provide all-weather connectivity between Srinagar, Kargil and Leh and bring about all-round economic and socio-cultural integration of these regions.

— The construction period of the project is seven years which shall be reckoned from the date of commencement of construction. The civil construction cost of the project is Rs 4,899.42 crore.

_ The Zojila tunnel will be the longest bi-directional tunnel in Asia. Its construction period will be seven years because of a very difficult terrain where in some areas temperature dips to minus 45 degree celsius. The tunnel shall be an engineering marvel as first of its kind in such a geographical area.

— The total capital cost of the project is Rs 6,808.69 crore. It includes the cost towards land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation and other pre-construction activities as well as maintenance and operation cost of the tunnel for four years.

— The main objective of the project is to provide all-weather connectivity to strategically important Leh region in Jammu and Kashmir which at the moment is limited to at best six months because of snow on the passes and threat of avalanches.

— Once operational, the tunnel would cut the travel time by over three hours while also bringing about all-round economic and socio-cultural integration of the region. Talks about constructing this tunnel had started some 20 years ago.

— As per government, tenders were issued four times for the project but it was only after the government relaxed some technical and financial qualifications that contractors started showing interest.

— The project along with other ongoing projects like 6.5 km long Z-Morh tunnel at Gagangir would ensure safe, fast and cheap connectivity between the two regions of Kashmir and Ladakh

— The project aims at the construction of 14.15 km long two-lane bi-directional single tube tunnel with a parallel 14.2 km long egress tunnel excluding approaches between Baltal and Minamarg in the state.

_ Defense forces have to face a hard time ensuring supplies to border posts during winters. This pass is most strategic for the entire Kargil sector which has seen intrusion and war in the past.

_ Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lay the foundation stone of the project and work is likely to start this year.

_ The project will further increase the employment potential for the local labourers for the project activities. On its completion, it will lead to enormous boost in employment as local businesses get linked to National market and the beautiful region is able to receive round the year tourist traffic.