Ganderbal, Kargil, Oct 15: The Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari on Thursday virtually inaugurated the blasting process for construction related works on Zojila Tunnel at Nilgrath in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district, which will provide all weather connectivity between the two union territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.
The first blasting for construction related work on Zojila tunnel was virtually launched by Nitin Gadkari from New Delhi today.
Talking during the inaugural ceremony of Zojila tunnel, Nitin Gadkari said that the tunnel will provide all-weather connectivity between Srinagar and Leh that will bring about an all-round economic and socio–cultural integration between the two union territories. “It would reduce the travel time from more than 3.5 Hours currently to just 15 Minutes.”
The Minister said, it involves construction of a 14.15 Km long tunnel at an altitude of about 3000 m under Zozila pass, presently motorable only for 6 months in a year, on NH-1 connecting Srinagar and Leh through Dras & Kargil. It is one of the most dangerous stretch in the world to drive a vehicle & this project is also geo-strategically sensitive.
He said this will be the longest tunnel of Asia, adding that it will improve socio economic scenario in region. Gadkari informed that about Rs 4000 crore were saved with the re-designing of this tunnel. The Minister emphasized that with honest efforts, we can take our country forward at lower costs.
Meanwhile, officials in Gamderbal said that the project was first conceived in 2005 with a detailed project report prepared by Border Road Organization (BRO) in 2013, therefore attempts to award the project four times remained un-successful.
“The Project was eventually given to National Highways and infrastructure Development Corporation in 2016 and the work was awarded to a private construction company,” the officials said.
They said that soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone at Leh and the work was commenced in the year 2018 but progressed up to one year. “The construction company stopped work for reasons better known to them and later the contract was terminated.”
Thereafter, the official said, in 2020 the Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways, reviewed this whole project in detail and referred the matter to an expert group in order to reduce the cost and to execute the languishing project on priority basis.
As per the official figures, the mega project which involves 14.15 Km long tunnel has been awarded to a construction company namely Mega Engineering and Infrastructure Limited with quoted rate of Rs 4509.50 crore under claim time for the completion in six years only.
Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, PK Pole accompanied by Deputy Commissioner Ganderbal besides SSP Ganderbal monitored the process at the venue during the inaugural blasting ceremony done virtually from New Delhi. The ceremony was attended by several officials from the union territories as well.
Talking to media on the sidelines of the inaugural ceremony, divisional commissioner Kashmir, PK Pole assured that the deserved and dedicated youth from the entire valley will get employment out of this project.
He said they are hopeful that the construction work on the tunnel won’t halt and will be completed within the given time period without further delays.
“The tunnel when completed will be a landmark achievement in the history of modern India,” he said.
Meanwhile CEC Kargil, adminstrative officials police and other officials also attended the virtual inaugural ceremony in Kargil and hoped that the tunnel will ease the sufferings of people.
“The region at an earliest will get all weather connectivity this time without delay and halt in the work,” they hopes
Besides providing all weather connectivity between the two union territories, the local people living in adjacent villages were hopeful that the project will also generate employment for the local population.