Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday inaugurated the Rs 6,809 crore Zojila tunnel project in Jammu and Kashmir’s Leh kickstarting 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 Zojila project will reduce the travel time between Srinagar and Leh to 15 minutes from the current 3.5 hours. Zojila Pass tunnel will be India’s longest tunnel and Asia’s longest 2-lane bi-directional pass.
The 14 km long Zojila tunnel will be India’s longest road tunnel and Asia’s longest bidirectional tunnel. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, 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 NH-1A at a total cost of Rs 6800 crore earlier this year.
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 connection to places in the Laddakh region stands disrupted for long periods, preventing even essential supplies from reaching people, shutting down businesses, affecting healthcare and education. The tunnel will bring relief to the people of this region by providing all weather connectivity. It will also 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 & Kashmir. The project has strategic and socio-economic importance, and will be an instrument for the development of the economically backward districts in Jammu & Kashmir.
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. It will have pedestrian cross passages at every 250 meter and motorable cross passages and lay-bys at every 750 meter. It will have emergency telephones and fire-fighting cabinets at every 125 meter.
The Ring Roads and Srinagar and Jammu are aimed at reducing traffic congestion at these cities and making road travel safer, faster, more convenient and more environment friendly.
The 42.1 Km, 4 lane Srinagar Ring Road will link Galandar in West Srinagar to Sumbal. Being built at a cost of Rs 1860 crore, this road will provide a new route from Srinagar to Kargil and Leh, and reduce travel time. There will be a major bridge, three flyovers, 23 tunnels and 2 via-ducts on this route.
The 58.25 km, 4-lane Jammu Ring Road, being built at a cost of Rs 2023.87 crore, will link Jagati (western Jammu ) to Raya Morh. There will be 8 large bridges, 6 flyovers, 2 tunnels and 4 via ducts on this route.