Zojila Tunnel Project Information & Updates

The Zojila tunnel, currently under construction in the rocky Himalayan range in Kashmir, is poised to become India’s longest road tunnel and Asia’s longest bi-directional tunnel. Stretching over an impressive 14.15 kilometers, this remarkable infrastructure marvel will ensure all-weather connectivity between Srinagar and Leh, traversing through the scenic regions of Dras and Kargil along National Highway 1.

Zojila Tunnel Project
Zojila Tunnel Project

Transforming Connectivity in Jammu and Kashmir

The Indian government is undertaking an ambitious initiative to develop a network of tunnels in Jammu and Kashmir, encompassing 20 tunnels spanning 32 kilometers, as well as an additional 11 tunnels spanning 20 kilometers in Ladakh. The estimated cost for these 31 tunnels amounts to approximately Rs 1.4 lakh crores, reflecting the government’s commitment to enhancing infrastructure in the region.

The final phase of construction for the Zojila tunnel is expected to be completed ahead of schedule in September 2025, surpassing the initial deadline of November 2026. Officials even anticipate opening the tunnel as early as September 2024 to facilitate the movement of armed forces. Upon the completion of the Zojila project, the 32-kilometer journey from Sonamarg to Minamarg will be reduced to less than 40 minutes, a substantial improvement compared to the current four-hour travel time.

Union Minister Nitin Gadkari recently announced the upcoming inauguration of the 6.5-kilometer Z-Morh tunnel on the Srinagar Leh highway, connecting Gagangir and Sonmarg. This route will significantly enhance connectivity throughout the year, overcoming the challenges posed by inclement weather conditions.

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Unveiling the Zojila Tunnel Project: Details and Construction

The esteemed Zojila tunnel project is being executed by Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Ltd (MEIL), a Hyderabad-based company renowned for its expertise in construction. Initially awarded under the Hybrid Annuity Model, the government has made plans to transition the project to the Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) mode, further streamlining its implementation.

The Zojila tunnel project stands as an exemplary undertaking in the Himalayas, given the formidable geographical conditions it faces. With a length of 14.15 kilometers, this tunnel will hold the distinction of being the highest tunnel in the region, situated at an altitude of 11,578 feet (approximately 3,500 meters). The proposed project plan includes provisions for pedestrian cross passages every 250 meters, emergency telephones and fire-fighting cabinets every 125 meters, and motorable cross passages and lay-bys every 750 meters.

A significant milestone has been achieved with the successful completion of half of the Zojila tunnel excavation work.

Zoji La Tunnel Project Details

Charting the Zojila Tunnel Route: Enhancing Connectivity

The Zojila tunnel, designed as a two-lane, bi-directional, single tube tunnel, will connect Baltal to Minamarg in Ladakh along the Srinagar-Leh section. By bypassing the challenging Zojila Pass, the tunnel will bridge the gap between Sonmarg in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, ensuring uninterrupted connectivity regardless of weather conditions. Additionally, the government is constructing the 6.5-kilometer Z-Morh tunnel from Gagangir to Sonmarg, a popular resort town. This dual infrastructure development will ensure all-weather connectivity between Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir and Kargil in Ladakh, while also providing easy access to Sonmarg, even during the harsh winter months.

The completion of the tunnel will significantly reduce travel time from Leh to Sonmarg, effectively shortening the distance between Gagangiri and Sonawal from 11 kilometers to 6.5 kilometers.

Interactive map of Zoji-La Tunnel Project Site

The Financial Implications: Costs and Considerations

Initially budgeted at Rs 6,575.85 crores, the Zojila tunnel project’s construction cost has been revised to an estimated Rs 8,308 crores by the National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), considering an annual escalation rate of 5%. The comprehensive cost, including the Zojila tunnel and approaches up to the Z-Morh tunnel, is projected to reach Rs 10,643 crores.

In an effort to prevent cost escalation, the government is exploring design changes for the project. The construction of the Z-Morh tunnel, expected to be completed by December 2023, carries a cost of Rs 2,378 crores. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari recently announced a substantial cost reduction of Rs 5,000 crores, successfully lowering the estimated cost of the Zojila tunnel tender from Rs 11,000 crores.

A Timeline of Achievement: The Journey of the Zojila Tunnel

The Zojila tunnel project has traversed significant milestones on its path to completion:

  • 2005: The tunnel project, aimed at connecting Srinagar and Leh, was initially conceptualized, and a detailed project report (DPR) was prepared by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) in 2013 under the BOT (Annuity) mode.
  • July 2016: The project was entrusted to NHIDCL for implementation under the EPC mode.
  • January 2018: The Zojila tunnel project received approval from the Union Cabinet.
  • May 2018: Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the project.
  • February 2020: The project underwent a comprehensive review by the Ministry for Road Transport and Highways.
  • May 2020: An expert group submitted a report that was subsequently approved by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
  • October 15, 2020: The Zojila tunnel excavation work commenced with the initiation of the first ceremonial blast by Minister of Highways, Nitin Gadkari.
  • November 2021: Megha Engineering and Infrastructures Ltd (MEIL) accomplished a major milestone by completing the excavation work for tunnel 1 of the Zojila Tunnel.

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The Transformative Impact of the Zojila Tunnel

The closure of the Zojila Pass during winter due to heavy snowfall cuts off Ladakh from Kashmir and other parts of the country. The Zojila tunnel will not only mitigate the risk of avalanches along the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh section of NH 1 but also enhance safety in the region. By reducing travel time by over three hours to a mere 15 minutes, the tunnel will revolutionize transportation, shrinking the distance between Baltal and Minamarg from 40 kilometers to approximately 13 kilometers. Furthermore, the construction of this tunnel will pave the way for comprehensive economic and socio-cultural integration, providing safe connectivity to Srinagar, Dras, Kargil, and Leh.

The strategic significance of the infrastructure project cannot be overstated. With Ladakh sharing de-facto borders with Pakistan and China, the Zojila tunnel will provide crucial logistical flexibility to the military, ensuring swift and secure transportation. Once completed, the project is expected to boost tourism, stimulate local business activities, and create employment opportunities in the region, catalyzing overall development.

The Zojila tunnel, an architectural marvel amidst the majestic Himalayas, will forge new pathways of connectivity, transforming the landscape and ushering in an era of progress and unity.

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