The hype around the newly inaugurated Atal Tunnel is still far from being dead and in the meantime, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on Thursday launched the first blasting for construction-related work at the 14.15 km Zojila tunnel. Once construction is completed, the Zojila tunnel will be one of the longest tunnels in Asia. Zojila holds very strategic importance and this tunnel will ensure all-year connectivity between Srinagar valley and Leh.
The Zojila pass is situated at 11,578 feet on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National Highway and remains closed during winters due to heavy snowfall. Like we mentioned earlier, the tunnel will facilitate all-weather connectivity.
Zojila is considered to be one of the most dangerous stretches in the world to drive a vehicle and this project is also geo-strategically sensitive. The tunnel will also bring about an all-round economic and socio-cultural integration of Jammu & Kashmir. Initiating the blast in a virtual ceremony, Road Transport, Highways and MSMEs Minister Gadkari termed it a “moment of pride” for India. He said the re-modelling of the project will result in savings to the tune of ₹4,000 crores to the public exchequer without any compromise on safety, security and quality.
“This tunnel when completed will be a landmark achievement in the history of modern India. It will also be of great importance to the Defence of the country, in view of the fact that massive military activities along our borders in Ladakh, Gilgit and Baltistan regions are taking place,” the government said. Zojila Tunnel project shall bring to fruition, 30 years of overwhelming public demand of Kargil, Drass and Ladakh region, the statement said and added that the project will make the travel on Srinagar-Kargil-Leh Section of NH-1 free from avalanches, would enhance safety and would reduce the travel time from more than 3 hours to 15 minutes.
The project, measuring a total of 32.78km in length – including an 18.63km approach road – was conceived in 2005, with a detailed project report being prepared by the Border Roads Organisation in 2013. The 14.15 km two-lane, bi-directional, single-tube tunnel, which is set to be the longest of its kind in Asia, will connect Baltal and Minamarg, thus reducing the need to use the Zojila pass. The project is said to reduce the travel time of over three hours to navigate the Zojila pass to just a 15-minute journey.
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