The construction of the Zojila Tunnel, being built on National Highway 1 to connect the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh, began today.
The first blast for the 14-kilometer long project was initiated by Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari in a virtual ceremony.
The tunnel will come up on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh Highway at an elevation of 3,000 meters. It is being built between the towns of Sonmarg in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Dras in the Union Territory of Ladakh.
With the construction of this tunnel, both civilians and the Indian Army will get an all-weather route for movement between Kashmir and Ladakh. Currently, the Zojila Pass remains closed for six to seven months in a year due to heavy snowfall, cutting off the only viable route between Kashmir and Ladakh.
When complete, it will be the longest bi-directional tunnel in Asia and the longest road tunnel in India. The time required to cross the Zojila Pass will come down from three and a half hours currently to around 15-20 minutes.
The project has been remodeled over the past few months. According to Gadkari, this will result in savings to the tune of Rs 4,000 crore.
This strategically important tunnel project has faced multiple delays over the years. After the project failed to take off after five rounds of bidding, a new bidding process was started in 2019. Megha Engineering and Infrastructure emerged as the lowest bidder through this process earlier this year.
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