IL&FS crisis casts shadow over vital Zojila tunnel project

It was a dream come true for the people in Ladakh region when the prime minister Narendra Modi unveiled a plaque in May to mark the commencement of work on Rs 7000 crore Zojila tunnel.
IL&FS crisis casts shadow over vital Zojila tunnel project
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It was a dream come true for the people in Ladakh region when the prime minister Narendra Modi unveiled a plaque in May to mark the commencement of work on Rs 7000 crore Zojila tunnel. However much to their disappointment there has been no further progress in the work due to the financial crisis hitting the executing agency, the Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services (IL&FS) Transportation Network.

This has stalled work on the vital tunnel on Srinagar-Kargil highway. The debt-laden IL&FS is likely to shelve the project, sources said. The tunnel will have to wait for fresh bidding and tendering process.

Commencement of work on much awaited 14 km long tunnel had cheered up people of Ladakh region, which remain inaccessible for rest of the country due to heavy snowfall during winters. 

The government of India had sanctioned twin tunnels on the strategic 434 Km Srinagar-Kargil highway to make it all weather. However, the inordinate delays in the execution of these projects had disappointed the commuters as well as the local population in Ladakh region.

Though first approved in 2005 during UPA government, the twin tunnels had remained on the drawing board ever since on account of technical difficulties in implementing the project in such a difficult terrain.

In January, the cabinet committee on economic affairs (CCEA) headed by PM Modi finally cleared the Rs 6,808.69 crore project. The project is being implemented by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways through National Highway and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL). The NHIDCL had allotted work on the tunnel to IL&FS Transportation Networks Ltd in rebidding.

Meanwhile, expressing displeasure over the reports about the cancellation of work on Zojila tunnel, senior national conference and member legislative assembly Kangan, Mian Altaf Ahmed sought the intervention of Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik, Member parliament Dr Farooq Abdullah, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad so that the work on this vital project is not cancelled.

"The construction of tunnel will provide employment to the local population. In addition to this the improved all-weather road connectivity will boost industrial growth and local economic activities in villages, towns and other areas falling in or situated close to the project highway," MLA Kangan Mian Altaf Ahmed told Greater Kashmir.

He said that if cancelled there will be further delay in the execution of the project that will cause immense disappointment and hardships to the people.

Significantly, the 6.5 km long tunnel near Z-Morh at Shitkari Sonamarg estimated to cost about Rs 2700 crore is also being constructed by the IL&FS. Sources said that the work on Z-Morh tunnel lies suspended since three months now.

An official at the IL&FS told Greater Kashmir that as of now no work is going on at Zojila and Z-Morh tunnels.

"The IL&FS management board, government authorities are meeting in a day to find a final conclusion of the issue" the official told Greater Kashmir. "Everything will come out in a day or two".

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