Twin tunnels on Srinagar-Leh highway a distant dream

Twin tunnels on Srinagar-Leh highway a distant dream

Work on 14-km Zojila tunnel yet to commence; Z-Morh tunnel may miss 2020 deadline

The project to construct twin tunnels sanctioned by the Government of India to connect Kargil and Leh districts with Srinagar during winter months could miss the 2020 deadline as the work on Z-morh tunnel is going on at snail’s pace and the work on 14-km Zojila tunnel is yet to commence.  

The strategic 434 km Srinagar-Leh highway, connecting Kargil and Ladakh with Kashmir, remains closed for about five months from December to April due to heavy snowfall in Sonamarg, Zojila and Drass areas.

“The proposal to construct two tunnels on this highway was in limbo for the past 12-years.  These tunnels were first approved way in 2005, the twin tunnels had remained on the drawing board on account of technical difficulties in implementing the project in such a difficult terrain,” said an official.  

He said the tunnel being constructed on the Srinagar-Leh section of the highway i.e. Z-Morh tunnel would be 6.5 km long and would  have two lanes along with escape tunnel on a new alignment between Gagangeer and Sonamarg.

The executing agency APCO Titan company has put the estimated cost of the proposed project at Rs 2700 crore. The company has engaged IL&FS Transportation Network Limited for executing the said work, the official added. 

The construction work, he said, commenced in May 2015 and the completion period for the project is five years. “The work is going on at snail’s pace thus defeating the very purpose of this vital project. If the work on the project is not expedited it would miss its deadline that is May 2020,” the official added.

He said the proposed twin tunnels would turn the 434-km Srinagar-Leh highway into an all-weather road and save the commuters from passing through 11,500 ft Zojila Pass, which remains closed for five months due to inclement weather.

Another top official said that National Highway and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited has allotted work to construct 14 km tunnel at Zojila to IL&FS Transportation Networks Ltd. However the work on the much awaited Asia’s longest tunnel being constructed at Zojila is yet to commence.

A source said the executing agency is yet to arrive at the place for carrying out any pre execution and construction work, he added.

Member of Legislative Council Haji Anayat told Greater Kashmir that the work has been allotted to a firm. However, the work hasn’t started as some formalities are pending. “ I would talk to the firm soon to enquire about  the status of the project,” he said.

Minister for Road and Buildings Naeem Akhter said that the work has been already allotted and as such there are no issues that can delay the commencement of the work. “I don’t have the latest information available with me with regard to the tunnel work. I will talk to the concerned about it in a day or two,” Akhter added.