After the inauguration of the Atal tunnel in Himachal Pradesh, the longest highway tunnel at more than 10,000 feet above sea level, the Centre is gearing up for yet another one - the Zojila tunnel - Asia's longest bi-directional tunnel.
It will connect Srinagar, Dras, Kargil and Leh via a tunnel through the famous Zojila Pass. Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari will today initiate the first blasting for the construction of the new Zojila tunnel.
Located at more than 11,500 feet above sea level, the all-weather Zojila tunnel will be 14.15 km long and ensure road connectivity even during winters. It will make the travel on the 434-km Srinagar-Kargil-Leh Section of NH-1 free from avalanches, enhance safety and reduce the travel time from more than 3 hours to just 15 minutes. The tunnel is expected to be completed in seven years.
The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways issued a statement saying, "The tunnel will provide all-weather connectivity between Srinagar valley and Leh (Ladakh plateau) on NH-1, and will bring about an all-round economic and socio–cultural integration of Jammu & Kashmir."
"This tunnel when completed will be a landmark achievement in the history of modern India. It will also be of great importance to the Defence of the country, in view of the fact that massive military activities along our borders in Ladakh, Gilgit and Baltistan regions are taking place," read the statement.
To ensure all-weather connectivity, the approach road to the tunnel from Z-Morh will have with avalanche protection. There will be emergency lay-bys for every 750 metres inside the tunnel. It will also have sidewalks on either side of the road. For safety, there will be emergency call services, CCTV, fire alarm, fire hydrants etc placed inside the tunnel.
The speed limit inside the tunnel is likely to be the same as in the Atal tunnel - 80 kmph.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid the foundation for the Zojila tunnel back in May 2018. The cost of the project is pegged at around ₹6,800 crore.The project was first conceived in 2005 and its Detailed Project Report (DPR) was prepared by BRO in the year 2013. After several failed attempts to award the project, it was eventually given to NHIDCL in July 2016.