The Centre is set to give the green signal to a vital road link project in Kashmir that will connect the strategically important region of Kargil and Leh to the rest of India through a 14-km-long all-weather tunnel.
At present, these two regions remain cut off from summer capital Srinagar and the rest of the country for about six months every year during the winter season on account of heavy snowfall and inclement weather.
The Union cabinet is likely to approve the proposed R9,000-crore tunnel project passing through Zojila - one of the highest mountain passes in India - on Thursday.
Located at an altitude of about 12,000 feet on National Highway-1, the Zojila tunnel along with another 6.5-km-long tunnel at Z-Morh in Sonmarg, which was cleared for construction last year, will provide road connectivity to these strategically important areas round the year.
"The twin tunnels once complete will not only usher in economic development in the region but also bring respite to people who get stranded during the winter months," said a senior road ministry official.
Road ministry officials said once work starts, the Zojila tunnel project would take seven years to complete. The completion deadline for the Z-Morh tunnel is 2018.
Though first approved in 2005, the twin tunnel project had remained on the drawing board till last year on account of various reasons, including technical difficulties in implementing it. Work gathered momentum only late last year after Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, following a visit to Jammu and Kashmir requested then road minister CP Joshi to expedite it.