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Zoji La – the Smart Tunnel for Economic & Socio-Cultural Integration

Zoji La Tunnel, an engineering marvel as first of its kind on such tough terrain, situated at an altitude of 11578 feet on Srinagar-Kargil-Leh highway, where temperatures fall to -45 degrees, will be India’s longest road tunnel and Asia’s longest bi-directional underground road to be built almost 400 metres beneath the existing highway. Currently, Ladakh remains cut-off from the rest of India from November to March due to heavy snowfall. Defence forces face a hard time ensuring supplies reach border posts during winters and this pass is most strategic for the entire Kargil sector. Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, unveiled a plaque to mark the commencement of work on the Zojila Tunnel and attended Closing Ceremony of the Birth Centenary Celebration of the 19th Kushok Bakula Rinpoche in Jive-tsal in Leh on the first leg of a day-long visit to Jammu and Kashmir on the 19th of May, 2018.

“Zojila project will be completed in five years, but I have asked the concerned ministry to look into ways to reduce the time for completion of this project,” Modi said.

Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister, had approved the construction, operation and maintenance of this 2-lane bi-directional tunnel with Parallel Escape (Egress) tunnel between Baltal and Minamarg, on the Srinagar-Leh section of NH-1A, at a total cost of ₹6800 crore in January 2018.

  • Zojila Tunnel will provide the Kashmir Valley with all-weather access to Ladkah between Srinagar, Kargil and Leh, a strategically important border region.
  • Zojila tunnel has been planned as a Smart Tunnel:
    • It will have latest safety features like fully transverse ventilation system,
    • Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS),
    • Tunnel Emergency Lighting, CCTV Monitoring,
    • Variable Message Signs (VMS),
    • Traffic Logging Equipment,
    • Over Height Vehicle Detection,
    • Tunnel Radio System, etc.
  • Zojila tunnel will have pedestrian cross passages at every 250 meter and motorable cross passages and lay-bys at every 750 meter.
  • It will have emergency telephones and fire-fighting cabinets at every 125 meter.
  • Zojila tunnel will reduce the travel time on this 14.2 km stretch to just 15 minutes from the present three and a half hours.
  • Vehicles can run at 80 kmph inside the tunnel, which will have the necessary safety features including high-tech communication system.
  • Carbon dioxide would be removed from the tunnel through a tower, seven times higher than the Qutub Minar.
  • Another crucial 6.5 km tunnel at Z-Morh on this stretch of Srinagar-Leh highway is likely to be completed next year.

Zojila tunnel’s construction is expected to bring about all round economic and socio-cultural integration of the three regions of Jammu and Kashmir. In addition to direct jobs generated during construction, it will also lead to massive indirect and spinoff jobs due to acceleration of economic growth. The government is committed to development of manpower skilled for tunneling jobs in Jammu & Kashmir. The project has strategic and socio-economic importance, and will be an instrument for the development of the economically backward districts in Jammu & Kashmir.

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