The cabinet committee on economic affairs (CCEA) on Wednesday cleared the project for constructing a 14.1km long two-lane tunnel at Zojila pass providing all weather connectivity to Srinagar, Kargil and Leh in Jammu and Kashmir at the cost of Rs 6,808 crore, including the cost of land acquisition, road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari said.
Zojila is situated at an altitude of 11,578 feet on Srinagar-Kargil Leh National Highway which remains closed during winters (December to April) due to heavy snowfall and avalanches cutting off Ladakh.
As per my information, it will be the longest all-weather tunnel in Asia and among the highest passes in the world which is strategically very important for India as Kargil is a vulnerable sector given the history of infiltration from Pakistani side,” the minister said. “Traveling through this stretch currently takes three hours. Once operational, the tunnel will reduce the travel time to 15 minutes,” he said.
The tunnel is being constructed on government-funded engineering procurement and construction model and will be operational in seven years. The government is also building a parallel single lane escape tunnel. IL&FS has placed the lowest bid of Rs 4,899 crore for the construction of the tunnel.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi will do the ‘bhoomi pujan’ of the project once weather clears up in the region,” Gadkari said. The CCEA also cleared Rs 5,369-crore Jal Vikas Marg Project (JVMP) for enhanced navigation on the Haldia-Varanasi stretch of National Waterway-1 on Ganga.
The project falls in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal. The project is expected to be completed by March 2023 and will provide an alternative mode of transportation that will be environmentally friendly and cost-effective. It will contribute in bringing down the logistics cost in the country. The project is being funded by the World Bank, Gadkari said.
NW-1 development and operations will lead to direct employment generation to the tune of 46,000 and indirect employment of 84,000 will be generated by vessel construction industry. There will be two multi modal hubs in Varanasi and Haldia,” he said.
The cabinet also approved the amendments to the model concession agreement to make port projects more investor-friendly. The developers will now be allowed to exit the project after two years of commencement of operations, Gadkari said
Proposal to build AIIMS in Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh at a cost of Rs 1,351 crore was also cleared by the cabinet. The 750-bed hospital will be constructed within 48 months.