Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday inaugurated the Rs 6,809 crore Zojila tunnel project in Jammu and Kashmir’s Leh, kickstarting the work for Asia’a longest and strategic bi-directional tunnel, which will provide all-weather connectivity between Jammu and Kashmir’s Srinagar, Kargil and Leh.
The project is expected to be finished within five years. "I'm confident that it will be completed during your (Modi's) tenure as prime minister," Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said at the closing ceremony for the birth centenary celebration of the 19th Kushok Bakula Rinpoche.
Addressing a large congregation gathered for the occasion, the prime minister said that the tunnel would help in connecting the region with the rest of the country, a dream of the Buddhist spiritual guru.
Unveiling a plaque for commencing the work for the tunnel, Modi said, "Zojila tunnel is not a mere tunnel but a modern day marvel."
The Zojila pass is situated at an altitude of 11,578 feet on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National highway and remains closed during winters due to heavy snowfall, cutting off Ladakh region from Kashmir. Thus, this project aims at the construction of 14.15 km long two-lane bi-directional single tube tunnel with a parallel 14.2 km long egress tunnel. The tunnel would cut down the 3.5 hours of drive through the mountainous Zojila to 15 minutes.
Modi said it would provide connectivity to the region besides employment to the local youths. He said the carbon dioxide would be removed from the tunnel through a tower, seven times higher than the Qutub Minar.
This pass is most strategic for the entire Kargil sector which has seen intrusion and war in the past and thus as Modi said would help the armed forces for round-the-clock supplies.
The project will further increase the employment potential for the local labourers for the project activities. On its completion, it will lead to an enormous boost in employment as local businesses get linked to national market and tourist traffic increases.
Meanwhile, Road and Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, who was also present for the inauguration, in his address said that 90 percent of employment would be provided to local youths in the construction of the tunnel.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired Modi had in January, approved the construction of the tunnel. And while Gadkari had given a time of seven years for completion of the tunnel, the prime minister asked him to ensure that it be completed in next five years.
The civil construction cost of the project which is implemented by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRT&H) through the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) is Rs 4,899.42 crore. As per a report in The Indian Express, The total capital cost of the project is Rs 6,808.69 crore and this includes the cost towards land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation and other pre-construction activities as well as maintenance and operation cost of the tunnel for four years.
"The Zojila tunnel has been planned as a smart tunnel. It will have latest safety features like fully transverse ventilation system, uninterrupted power supply (UPS), tunnel emergency lighting, CCTV monitoring, variable message signs (VMS), traffic logging equipment, over height vehicle detection, tunnel radio system, etc," NDTV quoted a spokesperson.
IL&FS Transportation had emerged as the lowest bidder for the project in July 2017.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: May 20, 2018 08:58:58 IST