Srinagar: Hyderabad-based Megha Engineering & Infrastructure Limited (MEIL), which is executing Zojila Tunnel, a project of national importance that will strengthen both defence and economy, is keen to expedite the project execution. The company, which has completed over 10 per cent of the works, is aiming to complete the project by 2025, ahead of the 2026 target.
The tunnel which will hold importance for India’s security has the distinction of being Asia’s longest bi-directional tunnel and the country’s longest road tunnel. It will attract an investment of Rs 4,600 crore.
Prashant Kumar, DGM, MEIL, told Telangana Today, “Works are in progress at a fast pace. We hope to complete the project ahead of our scheduled target of 2026. We will make significant headway in the coming months.”
Zojila Pass is the strategic link connecting the Leh-Ladakh region to Srinagar in Jammu & Kashmir, and with the rest of India. The region however does not have an all-weather connectivity, especially to Leh, the capital of the Union Territory of Ladakh. This has adversely impacted the transport sector, thereby affecting the economy of the region.
Currently, the road from Srinagar to Leh, is not open all year round, as it is not suitable for vehicular movement. Connectivity is limited to only five months in a year owing to extreme snowfall during winters. The existing Srinagar-Ladakh highway is closed from mid-November to April, literally cutting off this entire region from the rest of the world. This is posing a big challenge for the movement of the Army and military vehicles. To solve this, the Zojila tunnel project has been taken up and MEIL has been awarded the project in October 2020.
National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation ED Brigadier Gurjeet Singh Kambo said, “Zojila Tunnel project will make the travel on Srinagar-Kargil-Leh Section of NH-1 free from avalanches. We are aiming for earlier execution than the targeted completion of the project by 2026. Excavation works are going in full swing and dynamics and topography of the region will change with the help of this project.”
He added, “We are using advanced machinery for the project. Technology for the tunnel is matching with the tunnel engineering and technology on par with any country in Europe or Asia. We are working in a double shift and are speeding up implementation. We are encouraging companies in India to use liquid explosives and we are creating success stories.”
Once the Tunnel is completed, travel between Srinagar and Ladakh throughout the year will become possible. While the distance will be reduced (from Baltal to Minamarg) from 40 km to 13 km, travel time too will be reduced by 1.5 hours between the two Union Territories.
A connecting tunnel from Z-Morh in the National Highway-1 to Zojila tunnel will be constructed in the Zojila Ghats between Sonamarg and Kargil. The entire work is divided into two divisions in the 33 km span. The first part involves the development and expansion of the 18.475 km highway between Z-Morh to Zojila. Along this alignment, about 3.018 km highway stretch will be expanded. The remaining portion of the highway (13.842 km) will be freshly developed. This highway consists of two twin-tube tunnels. Two snow galleries will also be built.
The second division involves the construction of the 14.15 km Zojila tunnel, which will be a two-lane highway (9.5 meters wide and 7.57 meters high) in the shape of a horseshoe. The New Austrian Tunnelling Method (NATM), an advanced technology, is being used in these works.
Union Minister Nitin Gadkari will be visiting the tunnel on Tuesday and will become the first person to go through the tunnel. He launched the first blasting for construction-related work at the 14.15 km Zojila tunnel last year.