In a mega boost for infrastructural development in restive Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will today lay the foundation stone of Rs 6,800 crore strategic Zojila tunnel, Asia’s longest bi-directional tunnel.
He will also lay the foundation stones for ring road projects in Srinagar and Jammu costing nearly Rs 3,884 crore.
Security has been tightened in the state. The entry and exit points in Jammu and Srinagar have been sealed by the police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), with vehicles being allowed after thorough checking.
The security setup includes elaborate deployments, area domination, checkpoints and alertness.
The 14-km long Zojila tunnel, which will be India’s longest road tunnel and Asia’s longest bidirectional tunnel, will provide all-weather connectivity between Srinagar, Kargil and Leh as this route remains snow-bound for a large part of the year and is ravaged by frequent avalanches.
It will also cut down the time taken to cross the Zojila pass from 3.5 hours to just 15 minutes, besides making the drive much safer and convenient, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways said in a statement.
It said PM Modi will attend “the commencement of work on Zojila Tunnel on the Srinagar-Leh National Highway at an event in Jive-tsal in Leh “.”He will also lay the foundation stone for Srinagar Ring Road and Jammu Ring Road at separate events at Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC), Srinagar and at General Zorawar Singh Auditorium in Jammu the same day,” it said.
Road Transport & Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari will also be present at the events.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister had approved the construction, operation and maintenance of this 2-lane bi-directional tunnel with Parallel Escape (Egress) tunnel between Baltal and Minamarg on the Srinagar-Leh section of NH-1A at a total cost of Rs 6,800 crore earlier this year.
The government said the construction of this tunnel will provide much relief to the people in the region. Due to heavy snowfall and frequent avalanches, road connection to places in the Laddakh region get disrupted for long periods, preventing even essential supplies from reaching people, shutting down businesses, affecting healthcare and education.
“The construction of the tunnel is expected to bring about all round economic and socio-cultural integration of these regions. In addition to direct jobs generated during construction, it will also lead to massive indirect and spinoff jobs due to acceleration of economic growth,” the statement said.
It added that the government is committed to development of manpower skilled for tunnelling jobs in J&K. The project has strategic and socio-economic importance, and will be an instrument for the development of the economically backward districts in J&K.
The government said the Zojila tunnel has been planned as a smart tunnel which will have latest safety features like fully transverse ventilation system, Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS), Tunnel Emergency Lighting, CCTV Monitoring, Variable Message Signs (VMS), Traffic Logging Equipment, Over Height Vehicle Detection, Tunnel Radio System, etc.
It will have pedestrian cross passages at every 250 metre and motorable cross passages and lay-bys at every 750 metre, the statement said, adding that it will have emergency telephones and fire-fighting cabinets at every 125 metre.
The Ring Roads at Srinagar and Jammu are aimed at reducing traffic congestion at these cities and making road travel safer, faster, more convenient and more environment friendly, the statement said.
The 42.1 Km, 4 lane Srinagar Ring Road will link Galandar in West Srinagar to Sumbal. Being built at a cost of Rs 1,860 crore, this road will provide a new route from Srinagar to Kargil and Leh,and reduce travel time, it said, adding that there will be a major bridge, three flyovers, 23 tunnels and 2 via-ducts on this route.
“The 58.25 km, 4-lane Jammu Ring Road, being built at a cost of Rs 2,023.87 crore, will link Jagati (western Jammu) to Raya Morh. There will be 8 large bridges, 6 flyovers, 2 tunnels and 4 via ducts on this route,” it said.