SRINAGAR: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is arriving on a visit to Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday, will kickstart work on prestigious Zojilla Tunnel, that will provide all-weather connectivity between Ladakh and the Valley, and lay foundation stones for two road projects.
The prime minister is also expected to dedicate to the nation the 330-MW Kishenganga Power Project constructed in Gurez area of Kashmir.
“The prime minister will attend the commencement of work on Zojila Tunnel on the Srinagar-Leh National Highway at an event in Jive-tsal in Leh tomorrow (Saturday),” an official spokesman said.
Modi will also lay foundation stone for the Srinagar Ring Road and Jammu Ring Road at separate events at Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) Srinagar and at the General Zorawar Singh Auditorium in Jammu. Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari will also be present at the events.
The 14-kilometre long Zojila Tunnel will be India’s longest road tunnel and Asia’s longest bidirectional tunnel.
Earlier this year, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the prime minister, had approved the construction, operation and maintenance of this 2-lane bi-directional tunnel with parallel escape (Egress) tunnel between Baltal and Minamarg on the Srinagar-Leh section of the National Highway at a cost of Rs 6,800 crore.
The construction of this tunnel will provide all-weather connectivity between Srinagar, Kargil and Leh.
This route remains snow-bound for a large part of the year, and is ravaged by frequent avalanches. As a result, road connectivity to places in the Ladakh region stands disrupted for long periods, preventing even essential supplies from reaching people, shutting down businesses, affecting healthcare and education.
The tunnel will cut down the time taken to cross the Zojila pass from the present 3.5 hours to just 15 minutes, besides making the drive much safer and convenient.
The construction of the tunnel is expected to bring about all round economic and socio-cultural integration of these regions. In addition to direct jobs generated during construction, it will also lead to massive indirect and spinoff jobs due to acceleration of economic growth.
The government is committed to development of manpower skilled for tunnelling jobs in Jammu and Kashmir. The project has strategic and socio-economic importance, and will be an instrument for the development of the economically backward districts in Jammu and Kashmir, the spokesperson said.
“The Zojila tunnel has been planned as a smart tunnel. It will have latest safety features like fully transverse ventilation system, uninterrupted power supply (UPS), tunnel emergency lighting, CCTV monitoring, variable message signs (VMS), traffic logging equipment, over height vehicle detection, tunnel radio system, etc,” the spokesman said. It will have pedestrian cross passages at every 250 metres and motorable cross passages and lay-bys at every 750 metres, he said, adding emergency telephones and fire-fighting cabinets will be installed at every 125 metres.