PM Modi inaugurates Zojila project in Leh: All you need to know about India’s longest tunnel

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday inaugurated the Rs 6,809 crore Zojila tunnel project in Jammu and Kashmir’s Leh kick starting the work for India’s longest tunnel and Asia’a longest and strategic bi-directional tunnel, which will provide all-weather connectivity between Jammu and Kashmir’s Srinagar, Kargil and Leh.

The project will be finished within five years. “Zojila project will be completed in five years, but I have asked the concerned ministry to look into ways to reduce the time for completion of this project,” Modi said. “It (tunnel) will lead to all-round economic and socio-cultural integration of these regions. It also has immense strategic importance,” he added.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by PM Modi had in January this year, approved the construction of the tunnel in the state, 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.

Below are the key features of the Rs 6,809 crore Zojila tunnel project:

# The Zojila tunnel will reduce the travel time between Srinagar and Leh drastically. It also aims to provide safe, fast and cheap connectivity.

# The project will provide all-weather connectivity to the region. The project has strategic and socio-economic importance and shall be an instrument for the development of the economically backward districts in Jammu and Kashmir.

# The civil construction cost of the project is Rs 4,899.42 crore. 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 tunnel for four years.

# The Zojila tunnel will be the longest bi-directional tunnel in Asia. Its construction period will be five 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 pass is situated at an altitude of 11,578 feet on Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National Highway and remains closed during winters due to heavy snowfall which cuts off Ladakh region from Kashmir.

# 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.

# The project aims at 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.

# 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.

# It is implemented by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRT&H) through the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL).