India’s Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has given approval for the construction, operation and maintenance of two-lane bi-directional Zojila Tunnel with parallel escape (egress) tunnel, excluding approaches, on Srinagar-Leh section in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K).
The total cost of the project is INR68.09bn ($1.074bn); including the cost for land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation and other pre-construction activities as well as maintenance and operation for four years.
The civil construction cost of the project is INR48.99bn ($772.63m) and will be executed on EPC mode. The tunnel will be constructed in seven years.
The scope of the project will include the construction of a 14.15km two-lane bi-directional single tube tunnel with a parallel 14.2km egress tunnel excluding approaches between Baltal and Minamarg. It will connect NH-1A at 95km and at 118km on the Srinagar-Leh section.
The Zojila Pass tunnel will be the longest two-lane bi-directional pass in Asia.
The construction of approaches of the tunnel will be taken up separately. The project is expected to contribute to the development of the economically backward districts in J&K.
The tunnel will provide all-weather connectivity between Srinagar, Kargil and Leh, besides bringing about economic and socio-cultural integration of these regions.
The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRT&H) will implement the project through the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL).
The project is aimed to provide all-whether connectivity to strategically important Leh region, Srinagar and Kargil, which remain cut-off from the rest of the world due to heavy snowfall during winters and avalanches. Zojila Pass is situated at an altitude of 11,578ft on Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National Highway.
Upon completion, the project will reduce the travel time between Srinagar and Leh to 15 minutes from the current 3.5 hours and also provide safe, fast and cheap connectivity.
The Zojila Tunnel is expected to increase the employment potential for the local labourers for the project activities, link local businesses to national market, and attract tourist traffic round the year.