National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (NHIDCL)—an entity under the union ministry of highways in charge of highway construction in the hilly areas—has said that the government plans to complete the ₹4600 crore Zojila tunnel ahead of the scheduled completion in 2026.

The upcoming tunnel at the Zojila pass will serve as a strategic link connecting the Leh-Ladakh region to Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir with an all-weather tunnel, thereby bringing it closer to the valley.

Union road transport minister Nitin Gadkari will hold a physical review of the tunnel construction today.

The existing Srinagar-Ladakh highway remains closed beginning mid-November to April, thereby cutting off the entire region. Post completion of the tunnel travel year-round travel between Srinagar and Ladakh will become a reality with a reduction of travel time by about 1.5 hours.

In an interaction with media in Srinagar, GS Kambo, executive director, NHIDCL said, "The completion target for Zojila tunnel is 2026. We will complete the work much earlier."

Kambo's confidence emanates from the fact that modern European technology is being deployed for construction. "Three vertical shafts have been deployed to open up more construction fronts to speed up the work," Kambo said.

The lack of all-weather connectivity on the existing Srinagar-Ladakh highway poses a hurdle for the movement of the army and military vehicles. Importantly, the alternative routes are closer to both Indo-China and Indo-Pakistan borders. Zojila tunnel offers a strategic alternative.

The foundation stone for the tunnel was laid in 2012 during the Congress-led UPA regime. With the collapse of IL&FS, the construction stalled. Road transport ministry re-started the project in 2018-19 on engineering procurement contract to Megha Engineering & Infrastructure Ltd.

Gadkari will also be reviewing yet another tunnel, Z Morh tunnel—providing all-weather connectivity between Srinagar and Sonmarg. The escape tunnel of Z Morh is likely to be opened to the public ahead of this winter, while the main tunnel is scheduled to be operational in June next year. The 6.5 km tunnel will help provide a fillip to tourism in the area and help the locals. Z Morh tunnel too is being implemented on an EPC basis by Apco Infratech Pvt Ltd.

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