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Nitin Gadkari Launched Blasting Process for one of the Asia’s Longest bi-directional Road Tunnel “Zojila Tunnel” in J&K 

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Gadkari launches blasting process for Zojila tunnel construction workOn October 15, 2020, during a virtual ceremony, Union Minister Nitin Jairam Gadkari of Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH) & Ministry of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MoMSME) initiated the first blasting process for the construction of one of the longest bi-directional road in Asia i.e. 14.15 Km Zojila Tunnel with altitude of about 3000 m in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) to provide all-weather connectivity between Srinagar valley and Leh (Ladakh plateau) on National Highway (NH)-1.

  • This geo-strategically sensitive project involves the construction at an altitude of 11578 feet under Zojila pass (presently motorable only for 6 months in a year) connecting Srinagar and Leh through Dras & Kargil. 
  • Notably this stretch is one of the most dangerous stretch in the world to drive a vehicle.
  • The project has a completion schedule of years (72 months).

About Zojila Tunnel Project:

The project will be implemented by National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (NHIDCL) while its construction work will be carried by Hyderabad (Telangana) based Megha Engineering & Infrastructure Limited (MEIL)

  • The total capital cost of the project would be Rs 6,808.63 crore and the total integrated cost of the project including Zozila tunnel (14.15 Km) and approaches upto Z- Morh tunnel (18.63 Km) will be Rs.10643 Crores.  With the approach road, the total project length is 32.78 km.
  • It should be noted that the NHILDCL is also implementing a 6.5 km long Z-Morh tunnel project to ensure all-weather connectivity between Srinagar (J&K) and Kargil (Ladakh) and its work will be completed by June 2021.

Background:

The Zojila Tunnel project was first awarded to Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS) Transportation Network but the order was cancelled in January 2019 after the financial crisis surrounding the parent company IL&FS . After that NHIDCL invited fresh tender for the construction where MEIL was emerged as the lowest bidder quoting Rs 4,509.5 crore.

  • In May 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone at Leh for this project.

How will the Zojila Tunnel Project be beneficial?

-It will enhance the safety of the travelers crossing Zojila Pass and would reduce the Travel time from more than 3 hours to 15 minutes.

-This will provide full year connectivity on road from present 6 months in a year (half year) due to heavy snowfall.

I-t will also create all round economic and socio-cultural integration between these regions with the rest of the country.

7 other ongoing works in J&K:

There are seven tunnel roads under construction in the Jammu and Kashmir region. 

  • Construction of the 8,450-metre-long twin-tube tunnel between Qazigund and Banihal will be completed by March 2021.
  • The work on 2,968-metre-long 6-single tunnels road between Ramban and Banihal is due for completion in December 2021.
  • The 450-metre-long tunnel between Khilani and Kishtwar will be ready by June 2022.
  • The DPRs (detailed project reports) have been completed for the 4.5-km-long Chenani-Anantnag tunnel, the 10.2-km-long tunnel at Sinthan Pass at a cost of rs 4,600 crore, the Rs 350-crore Khakhlani Byepass tunnel, and the 10-km-long tunnel between Chhatru and Anantnag at a cost of Rs 5,400 crore and tenders for these will be out shortly.

Recent Related News:

i.On May 4, 2020, the 2020 Pulitzer Prize winners were announced in which three Indian photojournalists namely Dar Yasin, Mukhtar Khan and Channi Anand from Jammu and Kashmir who work for Associated Press (AP) have won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize in feature photography.

ii.President Ram Nath Kovind gave assent to Jammu and Kashmir Official Languages Bill, 2020 making Kashmiri, Dogri, Hindi, English and Urdu as 5 Official Languages of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. 

About Jammu & Kashmir (J&K):
Lieutenant Governor– Manoj Sinha
Capitals– Srinagar (Summer), Jammu (Winters)