India’s longest bi-directional tunnel : Zoji La Tunnel

India’s longest bi-directional tunnel : Zoji La Tunnel

PM Narendra Modi is on a day long visit to Leh, Ladakh. He has unveiled a plaque to mark the commencement of work on the Zoji La Tunnel. This 14 km long tunnel is stated to be the longest tunnel road in the country and the longest bi-directional tunnel in Asia.
The tunnel will run between Baltal and Minamarg on the Srinagar-Leh section of NH-1A and will offer all weather connectivity between Srinagar, Kargil and Leh. Said to cut down travel time to cross Zoji La pass from a current 3.5 hours to 15 minutes, the tunnel is being constructed at a cost of INR 6,800 crores.
Work on this tunnel has commenced today, following the laying of foundation stone by PM Modi, while completion is expected in 2026. Another 6.5 km tunnel at Z-Morh along the Srinagar-Leh highway is also likely to be completed next year. This tunnel will make sure Srinagar and Kargil are connected via road all year, no matter the weather condition.
In 1997, the India Army conducted a survey for Zoji La tunnel while planning started in 1999 following the Kargil war. Besides proving beneficial to the Armed Forces, the Zoji La tunnel will also ensure year round connectivity to the people of Ladakh. Without road connectivity, almost 90% of the population in the Ladakh region are disconnected from the world. The only connectivity is via air, which is not feasible for most of citizens in the region.
Speaking about the Zoji La tunnel, it will be built around 400 meters beneath the existing highway. It will allow easy access to armed forces and for movement of supplies to border posts during the severe winter conditions in the region.
The Zoji La tunnel will be equipped with safety features such as a high tech communication system and vehicles will be able to travel at speeds of around 80 kmph within the tunnel. It will be an engineering marvel as it will be the first of its kind to be built across such rugged terrain and at an altitude of 11,578 feet where temperatures fall to -45 degrees.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday inaugurated the Rs 6,809 crore Zojila tunnel project in Jammu and Kashmir’s Leh kickstarting the work for India’s longest tunnel and Asia’a longest and strategic bi-directional tunnel, which will provide all-weather connectivity between Jammu and Kashmir’s Srinagar, Kargil and Leh. The project will be finished within five years. “Zojila project will be completed in five years, but I have asked the concerned ministry to look into ways to reduce the time for completion of this project,” Modi said. “It (tunnel) will lead to all-round economic and socio-cultural integration of these regions. It also has immense strategic importance,” he added.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by PM Modi had in January this year, approved the construction of the tunnel in the state, keeping in mind that Srinagar, Kargil and Leh remain cut-off from the rest of the world due to heavy snowfall during winters (December to April). The project will reduce the time taken to cross the Zojila pass from the present three and a half hours to just fifteen minutes, PMO tweeted on Friday. As per Google Maps, it takes around ten hours to cover the distance between Srinagar and Leh.
the key features of the Rs 6,809 crore Zojila tunnel project:
# The Zojila tunnel will reduce the travel time between Srinagar and Leh drastically. It also aims to provide safe, fast and cheap connectivity.
# The project will provide all-weather connectivity to the region. The project has strategic and socio-economic importance and shall be an instrument for the development of the economically backward districts in Jammu and Kashmir.
# The civil construction cost of the project is Rs 4,899.42 crore. The total capital cost of the project is Rs 6,808.69 crore. It includes the cost towards land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation and other pre-construction activities as well as maintenance and operation cost of the tunnel for four years.
# The Zojila tunnel will be the longest bi-directional tunnel in Asia. Its construction period will be five years because of a very difficult terrain where in some areas temperature dips to minus 45 degree Celsius. The tunnel shall be an engineering marvel as first of its kind in such a geographical area.
# The pass is situated at an altitude of 11,578 feet on Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National Highway and remains closed during winters due to heavy snowfall which cuts off Ladakh region from Kashmir.
“I have asked the concerned ministry to look into ways to reduce the time for completion of Zojila project,” PM Modi said.
# Defense forces have to face a hard time ensuring supplies to border posts during winters. This pass is most strategic for the entire Kargil sector which has seen intrusion and war in the past.
# The project aims at construction of 14.15 km long two-lane bi-directional single tube tunnel with a parallel 14.2 km long egress tunnel excluding approaches between Baltal and Minamarg in the state.
# The project will further increase the employment potential for the local labourers for the project activities. On its completion, it will lead to enormous boost in employment as local businesses get linked to National market and the beautiful region is able to receive round the year tourist traffic.
# It is implemented by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRT&H) through the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL).
This route remains snow-bound for a large part of the year, and is ravaged by frequent avalanches. As a result, road connectivity to places in the Ladakh region stands disrupted for long periods, preventing even essential supplies from reaching people, shutting down businesses, affecting healthcare and education. 
“The Zojila tunnel has been planned as a smart tunnel. It will have latest safety features like fully transverse ventilation system, uninterrupted power supply (UPS), tunnel emergency lighting, CCTV monitoring, variable message signs (VMS), traffic logging equipment, over height vehicle detection, tunnel radio system, etc,” a spokesman said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Farooq abdullah National conference leader at Sher-i-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC) in Srinagar where he inaugurated the 330mw Kishenganga Hydel Project and also laid foundation of Srinagar Ring Road.
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