Z-Morh tunnel unlikely to meet 2020 deadline

Only 5% work completed in 19 months; Project Director blames prevailing situation, limited working season

Srinagar, Publish Date: Dec 20 2016 12:08AM | Updated Date: Dec 20 2016 12:08AM
Z-Morh tunnel unlikely to meet 2020 deadlineFile Photo

The excitement brought by the announcement of Z-Morh tunnel in Jammu and Kashmir is fast waning as work on the prestigious project is going on at snail’s pace, raising questions on its completion by 2020 deadline. The 6.5 kilometer tunnel is part of a mega project to ensure undisrupted all-weather connectivity between Kashmir and Ladakh.

In the past 19 months, only 5-6 percent work of the project has been completed, thanks to the slackness of the executing agency and non-seriousness of the Central Government agencies looking after the project. The ongoing unrest in Kashmir has also taken toll on the project as work remained stopped for past 4-5 months.

With the project registering minimal progress, different quarters are raising questions on whether the project would be completed by April 30, 2020 - the deadline set by the Government of India for its completion.

“We were unable to undertake work in the past five months due to prevailing situation in Kashmir. We resumed work only 25-30 days ago,” Project Director, Rishish Jha, told Greater Kashmir. “We have lost this summer. Now we don’t expect too much in the winter. The work will pick up only in the next summer.” He said major works of the project can be taken up only during summers due to limited working season here.He admitted that meeting the deadline would be a challenge for the executing agency.

The tunnel is being built near Gagangeer in Central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district to ensure round-the-year connectivity to tourist resort Sonamarg and to Ladakh region.

The Rs 2700 crore project is being built under Design, Build, Finance, Operate and Transfer (DBFOT) Annuity model by the Srinagar-Sonamarg Tunnelway Limited (SSTTL)- the Special Purpose Vehicle set-up by the IL&FS Transportation Networks Ltd. and SOMA Enterprise Limited (SOMA) for execution of  the project.

The NHIDCL – the agency looking after the project- also blamed the prevailing situation in Kashmir for slow pace of work on the project.

“The work was impeded in the past 4-5 months due to unrest in Kashmir,” Deputy General Manager, NHIDCL, Ashok Kumar Jha said.

“It took more than one month for the executing agency to mobilize men and machinery.”

He said the project was earlier implemented by Border Roads Organization (BRO).

“We were entrusted with its responsibility in August this year,” he said.

On the other hand, the State Government has completed all the formalities including forest clearances for the project much before the work on it commenced in 2015.

“There is no bottleneck in the project on part of the state government or district administration,” DC Ganderbal, Tariq Hussain Ganai, said.

The issue of Z-Morh tunnel had also echoed in the Legislative Assembly earlier this year, but for a very different reason. During the budget session held in June, senior National Conference leader and MLA Kangan, Mian Altaf Ahmad, trained guns on the executing agency “for not preferring and providing locals the job opportunities.”

Senior National Conference leader and local MLA Mian Altaf today expressed concern over slow pace of work on the project. “The work is going on at snail’s pace. The Central and State Governments must intervene to speed up the work so that completion of the project does not face delay,” he told Greater Kashmir.

He also demanded that local youth should be provided jobs during construction of tunnel.

“The executing agency had promised to absorb the local youth holding diploma and other qualifications, at different positions during construction of the tunnel. But they have not fulfilled the promise yet,” Altaf said.

The project was cleared by the Public Private Partnership Appraisal Committee (PPPAC) on July 16, 2012.

On October 4, 2012, then Union Roads Minister in presence of Rahul Gandhi and then J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah laid foundation stone of the project.

Subsequently, the Letter of Award was awarded to the executing agency on March 12, 2013.








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