With fast tracking border infrastructure high on Narendra Modi government’s priority, a crucial road link project that will provide round the year connectivity between the strategically important areas of Kargil and Leh and rest of India through a 14 km long tunnel across Zojila — one of the highest mountain passes in India — has got a fresh impetus.
Road minister Nitin Gadkari is pushing for expediting the Zojila tunnel project, which despite getting approved by the cabinet last October, failed to take off because of differences between the road ministry and the Planning Commission over its funding model.
The proposed Rs. 9,000-crore Zojila project along with another 6.5 km long tunnel at Z-Morh in Sonmarg — where work started in 2012 — will provide round the year road connectivity to Kargil and Leh.
While the completion target for the first phase of the project which involves building the 6 km long tunnel at Z-Morh at an estimated of Rs. 2,700 crore is 2018, the Zojila tunnel will take seven years to be completed once work starts.
“Because of its strategic importance, Gadkari does not want any further delay. Following meetings with ministry officials to review the project he has directed that all issues with the plan panel should be sorted out at the earliest.
Gadkari is keen that all formalities related to awarding the project should be completed within the next two months,” said an official.
While the road ministry wanted to fund the project itself, the plan panel had recommended a different financing model. “The matter was referred to the finance ministry which till date has not taken a final decision,” added the official.
Though first approved in 2005, the twin tunnel project had remained on the drawing board till 2012 on account of various reason including technical difficulties in implementing it.
Work gathered momentum only after Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, following a visit to Jammu & Kashmir requested the then road minister CP Joshi to expedite it. Gandhi had laid the foundation stone of the Z-Morh tunnel in October 2012.