The strategically important Zojila tunnel is expected to be ready by 2024: Gadkari

New Delhi: Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari said during the inspection of the west portal of Zojila tunnel in Baltal, Kashmir on Tuesday afternoon that the government wants this infrastructure in Kashmir. The project, the Zojila Tunnel, is to be inaugurated before the 2024 general elections. For this the contractor has been asked to expedite the work by about three years.

He said, “We will complete this tunnel by September 2026. I have asked them to complete it by December 2023 so that the Prime Minister can inaugurate it before the Republic Day of 2024. I know it’s a challenge, but I believe they can do it in time.

The 14.5 km Zojila Tunnel, which will be Asia’s longest bi-directional tunnel at an altitude of over 11,500 feet, will provide all-weather, all-weather connectivity between Kashmir and Ladakh. The tunnel is first obstructed for the winter months as the ancient Zojila Pass remains covered in snow and avalanches. From a strategic point of view, the tunnel being built at a cost of over Rs 4,600 crore is very important for the armed forces.

Gadkari directed Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Ltd Managing Director Krishna Reddy, who was accompanying the minister in the tunnel, to complete the project at the earliest.

Gadkari said, “It does not mean that we will compromise on quality. True, it is not easy to make something like this in the Himalayas. But I am sure they can do it.

Connectivity is one of the areas on which the NDA government is working on its efforts to win over the people and transform the socio-economic status of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, the two union territories carved out of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. Was. There are plans to build 20 tunnels in Jammu and Kashmir and 11 in Ladakh. At present, road projects worth about Rs 1 lakh crore are underway in the region. Gadkari said there are plans to implement other projects worth Rs 1 lakh crore by 2024.

“The condition of people is very sad when during winters they are cut off without any supplies, medical aid, any business. With these all-weather connectivity projects, the region will prosper. He said that 4,000 local people have been employed in the construction of two tunnels on the important Srinagar-Leh highways-Zojila and Z-More near Sonamarg.

The Zojila Tunnel itself will get an upgrade, as there are plans to build an escape tunnel along the main tunnel, which will add to the cost. At present, it is a single-tube tunnel. Gadkari said that the paperwork is going on in his ministry. After 25-30 years when the traffic demand increases, instead of building another tunnel, it is better to build it now and save money.

According to official estimates, through the tunnel, the travel time will be reduced to a 15-minute drive from the current 3.5 hours.

Gadkari has also asked the local people to be trained in various skills in tourism and hotel management so that the tourism boom has been brought by the government thanks to the connectivity benefits. “In three years, tourism here will grow five times. I have told the Lieutenant Governor of Ladakh that like Davos, snow sports, adventure tourism etc. can be done here. I have asked him to make a project and send it to me.”

Gadkari’s ministry, which is also mandated to develop cable cars and ropeways, will also develop these to aid tourism covering seven lakes and a glacier.

The minister on Tuesday also directed the officials to plant local flowers along the new highways being laid and create roadside facilities for the local people to display the local culture and cuisine. “It will give business to the local nursery,” he said.

The tunnel, with 18 km of access roads on either side, will have three vertical shafts, fully illuminated, automatic fire alarm and control systems with CCTV coverage – all connected to a SCADA centre.

(with agency input)