Nitin Gadkari launches blasting process for Zojila tunnel construction work
The project holds strategic significance as Zojila Pass is situated at an altitude of 11,578 feet on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National Highway and remains closed during winters due to heavy snowfall.Updated: Oct 15, 2020, 15:49 IST
Union Minister Nitin Gadkari on Thursday launched the first blasting for construction related work at the 14.15 km Zojila tunnel.
One of the longest in Asia, the tunnel will provide all-year connectivity between Srinagar valley and Leh.
The project holds strategic significance as Zojila Pass is situated at an altitude of 11,578 feet on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National Highway and remains closed during winters due to heavy snowfall.
Road Transport, Highways and MSMEs Minister Gadkari termed it a moment of pride for India and said the re-modelling of the project will result in savings to the tune of Rs 4,000 crore to the public exchequer without any compromise on safety, security and quality.
It involves construction of a 14.15-km long tunnel at an altitude of about 3,000 m under Zojila pass (presently motorable only for six months in a year) on NH-1 connecting Srinagar and Leh through Drass and Kargil.
“This tunnel when completed will be a landmark achievement in the history of modern India. It will also be of great importance to the Defence of the country, in view of the fact that massive military activities along our borders in Ladakh, Gilgit and Baltistan regions are taking place,” a government press release said.
Zojila Tunnel project shall bring to fruition, 30 years of overwhelming public demand of Kargil, Drass and Ladakh region, the statement said and added that the project will make the travel on Srinagar-Kargil-Leh Section of NH-1 free from avalanches, would enhance safety and would reduce the travel time from more than 3 hours to 15 minutes.
The project was re-awarded this year to Megha Engineering & Infrastructure Ltd (MEIL) which had emerged as the lowest bidder quoting Rs 4,509.5 crore for the project. The other two bidders in the race were Larsen & Toubro and Ircon International JV.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May 2018, had laid the foundation stone for the Rs 6,800 crore project, billed as Asia’s longest bi-directional tunnel, in Jammu and Kashmir.
However, the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (NHIDCL) on January 15, 2019 terminated the contract awarded to troubled IL&FS group company -- IL&FS Transportation -- after it abandoned the project citing financial problems.
“The construction cost of Zojila tunnel was earlier worked out at Rs 6,575.85 crore and after considering the escalation @ 5 per cent per annum and the total capital cost of the project as Rs 8,308 crore by NHIDCL. Thus, the total integrated cost of the project including Zojila tunnel and approaches up to Z- Morh tunnel works out to Rs 10,643 crores,” Ministry of Road Transport and Highways said.
Compared to the present cost of the integrated project, based on the tender received at Rs 4,509.5 crore, the total capital cost of the project would be Rs 6,808.63 crore, it added.
“Thus, after re-modelling of the project and reaping the benefit of integrated project management by segregating the egress tunnel & utilizing the excavated rock material in construction of approaches, generated from tunnel boring, resulted in an anticipated saving of Rs 3,835 crore,” it added.