(MENAFN- Kashmir Observer) Srinagar- A strong workforce of over 1000 engineers and labourers are toiling their sweat to script history by making Srinagar-Ladakh highway, all weather road, even as over 90 percent of the work on the main tunnel in Zojila has been completed so far.
According to officials, the work on both the tunnels is in full swing and the slated time of completion is 2026. Once completed, the strategic highway to Ladakh will remain open throughout the year.
In 2018, the foundation stone for the Zojila tunnel project was laid, following approval by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The project encompassed construction, operation, and maintenance at an approximate cost of Rs 6,800 crore.
The work on the project to establish all-weather connectivity between the Kashmir valley and the Ladakh region was started on 15 October 2020.
The government of India has given this ambitious project to the Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Limited (MEIL) for execution. Read Also Zojila Tunnel Highest In Asia- Nitin Gadkari Takes Review Work on Zojila Tunnel to Continue Even in Winter
Harpal Singh, Project Manager MEIL, told Kashmir Observer that the work on the Zojila Tunnel was going on smoothly and will be completed on the set deadline.
Singh said that the work on the main tunnel (Part 1) from Z-Mohr tunnel to Baltal is almost completed with over 90 percent of the work done. He said that over 50 percent of the work on part-II of the tunnel starting from Baltal to Minimarg is completed.
“Out of 13 kilometers, over 7 kilometers of the excavation work on part-II of the tunnel is completed. We are hopeful that the breakthrough will be achieved in June of 2025,”Singh added.
The project spans a total distance of 31 km, stretching from Sonamarg to Minimarg. Specifically, the segment between Sonamarg and Baltal measures 18 km, followed by a 13-km-long main tunnel connecting Baltal to Minimarg. Regarded as the longest tunnel of its type in Asia and situated at the highest altitude, it will drastically cut down the Zojila pass crossing time from a four-hour journey to a mere 15 minutes.
Singh further said that the main tunnel will be single lane- bi-directional tunnel while two other tunnels are twin-tube unidirectional.
“The main tunnel is 10 meters wide and will be ready as 7.5 meters. The height of the tunnel is also 9.5 meters approx and is horse-shoe shaped.
The Zojila Pass, located at an elevation of 11,578 feet on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh highway, becomes impassable during the winter months due to heavy snowfall-leaving Ladakh cut off from the rest of the world for over six months.
This new tunnel, according to the officials, will provide an alternative route, ensuring all-weather connectivity and addressing the hindrance caused by winter closures.
Singh explained that keeping in view of the ecological fragile zone, the company is using an advanced technology-The New Austrian Tunneling Method (NATM), for the construction of the tunnel.
“Since Himalayan Range Mountains are very young and ecologically sensitive, we don't use (Tunnel Boring Machine) TBM for cutting,” he added.
He noted that if the weather permits, the work on the project will continue during the winters also.
Currently over 1000 engineers and laborers are working on the project.
Earlier this year, Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari along with Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and Members of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee on Road Transport and Highways visited the Zojila Tunnel and reviewed its progress.
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