The Union Cabinet has approved infrastructure projects worth Rs 12,178 crore, including the Zojila Pass which will provide all-weather connectivity between Kargil and Leh, in the valley state of Jammu and Kashmir.
Srinagar, Kargil and Leh remains disconnected during winters because of heavy snowfall, avalanches and landslides in the mountainous regions located at a height of over 11,000 feet in Leh Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir. The only pass connecting Kargil and Leh – two core Indian army bases – is the Zojila Pass. Located at an altitude of 11,578 feet, driving through the tough and deadly Zojila Pass takes three and half hours; and more importantly, it remains totally closed during winters. Keeping this in mind, the Union Cabinet, on Wednesday, approved the construction of an all-weather tunnel on the Zojila pass worth Rs 6,089 crore. This total cost includes the cost of land acquisition, road transport as well as construction, operation and maintenance of the 14.5-kilometre-long, 2-lane bi-directional Zojila tunnel.
This will be Asia’s longest bi-directional tunnel that will cut down the time taken between Kargil and Leh to just 15 minutes and will be operational for all seasons, including winters. Apart from that, the Zojila pass will be among the world’s all weather strategic tunnels located at highest altitudes. This tunnel will prove to be strategically very important for India and Indian defence troops as Kargil and Leh, both are the vulnerable sector given the history of infiltration from neighbouring countries. Not just that, the bi-directional tunnel will provide all-round economic and socio-cultural integration of the hilly regions where life is tough.
The estimated time needed for construction of the Zojila tunnel will be seven years from the date when construction process is commenced; but before that, the authorities will require to acquire land, resettle and rehabilitate those residing in the region. But once constructed, the Zojila pass along with ongoing projects like 6.5 km long Z-Morh tunnel at Gagangir would ensure safe, fast and cheap connectivity between the two regions of Kashmir and Ladakh.