The first blast for the construction of the Zojila Tunnel will take place today (15 October) in the presence of Minister for Highways Nitin Gadkari.
This 14 km long tunnel is being built on National Highway 1 (Srinagar-Kargil-Leh highway) to provide all-weather connectivity to Ladakh. Presently, the road leading from Kashmir to Ladakh remains open only for five to six months.
When complete, it will be the longest bi-directional tunnel in Asia.
The tunnel under the Zojila Pass will come up between the towns of Sonmarg in Ganderbal district and Drass in the Kargil district.
The time taken to cross this pass will come down from nearly three and a half hours to just 15-20 minutes when the tunnel is complete.
The project has faced multiple delays. Bids for this strategically important project were invited five times between 2013 and 2018. Four out of these five attempts to move ahead with the construction of the tunnel drew no responses. In the fifth attempt, IL&FS was selected as the contractor for the project.
Two days after India abolished Article 370, the government canceled the process again as IL&FS ran into financial troubles. Fresh bids were invited in late 2019, and Megha Engineering and Infra emerged as the lowest bidder earlier this year.
The announcement comes at a time when China has claimed that the development of infrastructure by India in the region is the “root cause” of tensions along the Line of Actual Control.
India has dismissed these claims saying the roads, bridges and tunnels coming up in the region are being built in Indian territory.
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