FROM KASHMIR TO LADAKH | Zojila Tunnel project work going on ahead of schedule

4-km tunnelling work completed
“The actual deadline of the project is 2026 but we will try to complete it before that,” Andrabi said.
“The actual deadline of the project is 2026 but we will try to complete it before that,” Andrabi said.Special arrangement

Zojila: Against the background of the snow-clad high mountain peaks, the dream of connecting Kashmir with Ladakh is taking shape.

Hyderabad-based construction company, Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Limited (MEIL), the executing agency for the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), a government undertaking, has achieved a milestone by completing 4-km tunnelling from Kashmir and Ladakh ends.

Officials engaged with the construction work said that this was an achievement as the work continued throughout the year without any interruption despite challenges of terrain and weather conditions.

Senior Project Engineer MEIL, Burhan Andrabi told Greater Kashmir that the good pace of work on the Zojila Tunnel project continues and it was evident from the fact that 4-km tunnelling work from both Ladakh and Kashmir ends had been completed in a record time.

“We have taken the project as a challenge. Everyone in the team from the project head to a labourer is involved in it and determined to complete the tunnel ahead of the scheduled time,” Andrabi said. “The Zojilla Tunnel - Nilgrar 1, 2 and Zojila main tunnel - is being expeditiously executed despite certain challenges at a high altitude of 3528 metres above the sea level.”

He said that the work on the Zojila tunnel was on at full swing with Nilgar 1 Tunnel ready while laning of Nilgrar 2 Tunnel had commenced.

“The actual deadline of the project is 2026 but we will try to complete it before that,” Andrabi said.

The main Zojila Tunnel is going to be Asia’s longest bidirectional tunnel and would provide all-weather connectivity from Kashmir to Ladakh.

Once the project is completed, the distance from Baltal to Minamarg would be reduced from 40 km to 13 km and the travel time between the two union territories would also be reduced by 1.5 hours.

On September 28, 2021, Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari reviewed the progress of the Zojila Tunnel project and lauded MEIL.

Gadkari inspected the under-construction Zojila tunnel and expressed satisfaction with the construction speed.

Being located at an altitude of 11,578 feet above sea level and the harsh weather conditions in the Himalayas make it a challenging project.

On completion, the engineering marvel would be the first of its kind in such a geographical zone.

According to official sources, the Zojila Tunnel project involves the construction of a 14.15-km-long tunnel at an altitude of about 3000 metres under Zojila Pass (currently motorable only for eight months a year) on the NH-1 connecting Srinagar and Leh through Drass and Kargil.

It is one of the most dangerous stretches in the world to drive a vehicle and this project is also geo-strategically sensitive.

The tunnel would provide all-weather connectivity between Srinagar and Leh on NH-1 and will bring about an all-round economic and socio-cultural integration of Jammu and Kashmir (Now UTs of J&K and Ladakh).

The Zojila Tunnel will be a two-lane highway. It would be 9.5-meter wide and 7.57-meter high in the shape of a horseshoe.

The New Austrian Tunnelling Method (NATM), an advanced technology, was used in construction.

The Centre conceived the idea of the Zojila Tunnel in 2005 to have all-weather connectivity to Ladakh as the UPA government felt all-weather connectivity to Ladakh was a strategic necessity.

The government started exploring the possibility of the tunnel and handed over the project to the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) in 2013.

In 2016, the NDA government raised funds and floated bids but only one player came forward under the BOOT mode.

However, the concerned agency failed to carry on the work and the project stopped for a few months.

In 2020, the Centre came up with a new design, and the work was allotted under the EPC mode where a contractor has to design, construct, and maintain the tunnel and funds would be provided by the government.

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