“The strategic Zojila Tunnel Project will be completed by December 2023, much before its earlier deadline of 2026”, said Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari on September 28.
After inspecting the work progress of the Zojila and Z-Morh tunnel site in Baltal, Jammu & Kashmir, Nitin Gadkari directed the authorities of Megha Engineering and Infrastructures Limited (MEIL) to complete the tunnel before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
MEIL was awarded the project in October 2020 by the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation.
“The work on the Asia’s longest bi-directional tunnel is going on at faster pace. I am satisfied with the speed of the and the quality of the construction is good. But it’s better if the construction is completed by December 2023 as we will face General Elections in 2024,” the Union Minister said during a media interaction at the project site.
“The completion of tunnels at Zojila and Z-Morh will provide all-weather connectivity from Srinagar to Leh. This will become the highway for socio-economic development in the region.”
The Minister also said that an extensive road network in the Himalayan region will help boost the region's tourism sector and provide huge employment opportunities to the people and strengthen the economy.
Zojila Pass is the strategic link connecting the Leh-Ladakh region to Srinagar in Jammu & Kashmir and with the rest of India. Presently, the road from Srinagar to Leh is not open all year round, as it is not suitable for vehicular movement due to extreme snowfall during winters. However, the region does not have all-weather connectivity, especially to Leh, which has adversely impacted the transport and tourism sector, thereby affecting the region’s economy.
This project coming up at an altitude of 11,578 ft will provide all-weather connectivity from Srinagar to Leh against just five months access with the Srinagar-Ladakh highway closed from mid-November to April, cutting off this entire region from the rest of India.
Once the tunnel is completed, travel and trade between Srinagar and Ladakh throughout the year will become possible. It will boost economic opportunities and strengthen India’s security.
When asked about the Minister’s request of completing the tunnel work before the 2024 Parliamentary election, MEIL Managing Director PV Krishna Reddy told Organiser that the company would try to do it as nothing is impossible.
Addressing the media, Nitin Gadkari also said Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh will get 31 tunnels with a cumulative length of 52 km with an investment of Rs 1.4 lakh crore in the next couple of years. While 20 tunnels will be complete with a cumulative length of 32 km in Jammu & Kashmir, another 11 will be built with a total length of 20 km in Ladakh.
Taking a jibe at the Opposition, the Union Minister said 969 new national highways have been announced in the region. The Modi Government has been able to do the same amount of work related to road projects in Jammu & Kashmir that earlier took 50 years. I don’t want to point fingers at anyone, but this work should have been done earlier.