The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has cleared projects for constructing a 14.1km long two-lane tunnel at Zojila pass providing all weather connectivity to Srinagar, Kargil and Leh in Jammu and Kashmir at the cost of Rs 68.08 bn and an AIIMS in Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh to be constructed at a cost of Rs 13.51billion.
Road, Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari said it will be the longest all-weather tunnel in Asia and among the highest passes in the world which is strategically very important for India as Kargil is a vulnerable sector given the history of infiltration from Pakistani side.
“Travelling through this stretch currently takes three hours. Once operational, the tunnel will reduce the travel time to 15 minutes,” he said. Zojila is situated at an altitude of 11,578 feet on Srinagar-Kargil Leh National Highway which remains closed during winters (December to April) due to heavy snowfall and avalanches that cut off Ladakh.
The tunnel is being constructed on government-funded engineering procurement and construction model and will be operational in seven years. The government is also building a parallel single lane escape tunnel. IL&FS has placed the lowest bid of Rs 48.99 billion for the construction of the tunnel.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi will do the ‘bhoomi pujan’ of the project once weather clears up in the region,” Gadkari said.
The CCEA also cleared Rs 53.69-billion Jal Vikas Marg Project (JVMP) for enhanced navigation on the Haldia-Varanasi stretch of National Waterway-1 on Ganga.
This project, which falls in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal, is expected to be completed by March 2023 and will provide an alternative mode of transportation that will be environmentally friendly and cost-effective.