29 Aug 2020
MEIL to construct Zojila Pass Tunnel
Image courtesy: Financial Express
In a major development in the Zojila pass tunnel project in Jammu Kashmir - Ladakh, Megha Engineering and Infrastructure (MEIL) emerged as the lowest bidder by quoting Rs 45.099 million. The other two bidders in the running were Larsen & Toubro (L&T) and Ircon International JV. The contract was awarded to MEIL thus giving impetus to the long-stalled project in the right direction. National highways and Industrial Development Corporation (NHIDCL) had opened the bids on 14 August 2020.
The foundation stone for the project was laid in 2018 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He even dubbed the infrastructural project as a “technological marvel”.
The Cabinet on January 3, 2018, had approved the Zojila tunnel project with Parallel Escape (Egress) tunnel between Baltal and Minamarg on the Srinagar-Leh section of NH-1A at a total cost of Rs 68 billion.
Significance of the project
The project is of significant importance because Zojila Pass is situated at an altitude of 11,578 feet on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National Highway and remains closed for about seven months during winters due to heavy snowfall. Due to the seasonal closing Defense forces face difficulty in ensuring supplies to border posts during winters across Zoji La pass. The tunnel along with the 6.5 km long Z-Morh Tunnel will provide all-weather connectivity between Srinagar, Kargil and Leh and will bring about all-round economic and socio-cultural integration of these regions.
The construction aspect
The 33 km long project will be executed in 2 parts. The first section will be the construction of 18.50 km road. The second part will be a 14.15 km long tunnel which will be built in the shape of a horseshoe. The construction of the project will take six years because of the treacherous terrain and low temperatures in the area.
The project being labelled as Asia’s longest bi-directional tunnel and is expected to reduce a 3 and a half-hour drive to 15 minutes of travel.
Features of Zojila Pass Tunnel include:
- A fully traverse ventilation system
- Emergency lighting
- Continuous power supply
- Traffic logging equipment
- CCTV monitoring
- Tunnel radio system
- Variable message signs
- Overheight vehicle detection
- The provision of emergency telephones
- Fire-fighting cabinets every 125 metres
- Pedestrian cross passages every 250 metres
- Motorable cross passages as well as lay-bys every 750 metres.
The project will increase connectivity of the local markets with the national markets thus helping local business and will bring about an increase in job opportunities.