Nitin Gadkari to inspect Z-Morh, Zojila tunnels, work may complete ahead of time
Union Minister Nitin Gadkari is expected to inspect the upcoming Zojila and Z-Morh tunnels in Kashmir today. His inspection comes days after Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur went to see development of the project over the weekend.
Both projects, which are carried out by the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), are likely to be completed ahead of their scheduled timeline. NHIDCL executive director Brigadier Gurjeet Singh Kambo said, “The work on both the tunnels is going on at a fast pace and we are confident that it will be completed ahead of the schedule, before the contracted time of completion."
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Nitin Gadkari will be the first dignitary to cross the main tunnel when he visits the two tunnels today. "We are sure that by the middle of next year, all work will be completed," Kambo said.
Zojila Tunnel, which is going to be Asia's longest bi-directional tunnel at 14.15 kms, is being constructed at a cost of ₹4,500 crore. It is located at the existing NH-01 at an elevation ranging from 2,700 metres to 3,300 metres. The tunnel promises to reduce distance between Baltal in Kashmir and Minamarg in Ladakh from 40 km to 13 kms. It will also provide all-weather access for commuters between Srinagar and Ladakh throughout the year.
On the other hand, the Z-Morh tunnel, being constructed at a cost of ₹2,378 crore, will connect Sonamarg with Gagangir in the Kashmir valley even during the winter season when heavy snowfall blocks most of the roads. This tunnel could be crucial for socio-economic boost in the region.
"In the extremely cold winters, the entire population from Sonamarg moves down. To keep the connectivity open, a Z-Morh tunnel was required to be made," Kambo said.
"Further, as we go into the dark valley, we have Zjila Pass at 8,500 feet. This pass remains virtually closed for five-six months every year, n other words, Ladakh from Kashmir remains cut-off for five-six months every year. So, for all-around and all-weather connectivity, there was a necessity to make a tunnel that is connecting to Sonamarg and Ladakh," Kambo said.
Both these tunnels are also strategically important for India since they pass very close to the Line of Control with Pakistan. The existing Srinagar-Ladakh highway remains closed for at least six months during winter, practically cutting off the region from the rest of the world. Once completed, these tunnels will also provide free movement of armed forces even during inclement weather conditions.