Jammu, December 30: An all weather road to Ladakh is a long pending demand and very fortunately, the union government has taken the first step into the construction of South-East Asia’s longest Zojila tunnel connecting Kashmir’s Sonmarg with the Gumri area in Kargil district.
The Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways under the chairmanship of Nitin Gadkari, has invited international bids for Expression of Interest which will be opened on January 14th, 2016.
As per the proposed plan, Zojila Tunnel will be 14.08-km-long and the construction of South-East Asia’s longest Tunnel will be completed in seven years with an estimated cost of Rs 9,090 crore. The 9,090 crore required for the construction of the Zojila tunnel has been allocated in the Prime Minister’s economic package of Rs 80,000.
The plan also suggests that the tunnel will pass through the fourth highest pass, Zojila Pass which serves as a gateway to the Ladakh region and is located at an altitude of about 12,000 ft (3,530 metres). Out of the 30-km stretch from Sonamarg in Kashmir to Gumri near the Zojila, a 10-km run is tough covering steep ravines and vertical mountains prone to avalanches.
Official sources say that the project holds strategic importance in view of Ladakh sharing its vast borders with the aggressive China and it will be built on the design-build-finance-operate-transfer (DBFOT) (annuity) basis. It will be completed within seven years and its concession period will be 22 years comprising seven years of construction and 15 years of operation period.
The project is not only a dream for the people of Ladakh but also for entire country. It will provide round-the-year connectivity to Ladakh, which otherwise remains cut off from other parts of the world for almost six months due to closure of two vital highways the 434-km-long Srinagar-Kargil-Leh highway and the 474-km-long Manali-Leh road in Winter. The construction will be started in the beginning of next year once the procedure for Expression of Interest gets completed, he added.