Union Minister for Road Transport, Highways and MSMEs Nitin Gadkari will initiate the first blasting for Zozila Tunnel in J&K tomorrow. The tunnel will provide all-weather connectivity between Srinagar valley and Leh (Ladakh plateau) on NH-1, and will bring about an all-round economic and socio–cultural integration of Jammu & Kashmir (Now UTs of J&K and Ladakh). It involves construction of a 14.15 Km long tunnel at an altitude of about 3000 m under Zojila pass (presently motorable only for 6 months in a year) on NH-1 connecting Srinagar and Leh through Dras & Kargil. It is one of the most dangerous stretch in the world to drive a vehicle & this project is also geo-strategically sensitive.
The project was first conceived in 2005 and its Detailed Project Report (DPR) was prepared by BRO in year 2013 on BOT (Annuity) mode. Attempts to award the project four times weren’t successful. The Project was eventually given to NHIDCL in July 2016 for implementation on EPC mode. Its work was awarded to M/s. ITNL (IL&FS). Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid foundation stone at Leh and commenced the work on 19.5.2018. The work progressed up to July 2019, and thereafter M/s. IL&FS went into financial problems and the project was stuck. Hence, the contract was terminated on 15.01.2019.
*Map not to scale
Thereafter, in February 2020, Nitin Gadkari, Minister for Road transport & Highways, reviewed this whole project in detail. In order to reduce the cost and to execute the languishing project on priority, referred the matter to an expert group under the Chairmanship of I.K Pandey, DG (RD) & SS, MoRTH. The Expert group suggested modalities of project configuration and implementation, to achieve project completion in least possible time and cost.
After due consultation with tunnel experts and other stakeholders, the expert group submitted its report on 17.5.2020, which was approved by the Minister, RTH on 23.05.2020. The salient features of the report include the following:
- Construction of two-lane Bi-directional single tube tunnel without parallel egress/escape passage.
- Reduction in construction shafts from 3 to 2.
- The Design Speed in tunnel to be 80 KMPH.
- Adding approach road of 18 km (Net road length is 12 KM) from end of Z-Morh tunnel to start of Zozila tunnel with Avalanche protection structures such as Catch Dams, Snow Galleries, Cut & Cover, Deflector Dam, etc. to make it an all-weather connection between two tunnels.
- The modified cost worked out was Rs. 4429.83 crore & it would reduce the travel time from more than 3.5 Hours currently to just 15 Minutes to travel through the tunnel.
- To take up integrated project of Zozila tunnel and approach road from Z-Morh to Zozila with avalanche protection for all weather connectivity.