Leh and Kargil residents had a good news in the biting cold when the Union Cabinets announced that money would be released for an all weather tunnel that would connect Kashmir and Ladakh.
Many residents from Leh and Kargil told this reporter on the phone that they face a lot of problems during winters, especially on healthcare front and availability of essential commodities in the markets. The reason is that the Zojila pass, situated at an altitude of 11,578 feet, remains closed from December to April.
Former tourism minister and law maker from Leh, Nawang Rigzin Jora told this newspaper that the tunnel was sanctioned by the UPA regime but due to poor response from the construction companies it got delayed for several years. “It would be a game changer for our economy and especially for tourism. Ladakh will get a new life and there is a scope for huge tourist footfall when the project would be completed,” said Jora.
People of Kargil and Zanskar are enthused by the news of an all-weather connectivity, as the tunnel will keep them connected with Kashmir all through the year and it would be only a 15 minutes drive to enter the valley. “We have been waiting for this tunnel and airport. There is no progress on the airport front,” said Bakir Ali, a religious leader from Kargil.
On Wednesday, the Union Cabinet approved the construction of Zojila pass tunnel. Those associated with the tourism sector in Ladakh said that when this tunnel would be completed the distance between Srinagar and Leh would come down from four hours to 15 minutes. The 14.2 km long tunnel project would be an engineering marvel and would be of great help to the defence forces as this tunnel will ensure supplies to border posts, especially at the border with China, during the winter months. The Zojila tunnel project has been approved on the engineering procurement construction mode (EPC mode). According to the official data, it will comprise a 14.15 km long two-lane bi-directional single tube tunnel with a parallel 14,200 km long egress tunnel excluding approaches between Baltal Mina Marg in the Sonamarg area of Kashmir. The estimated time period for the construction of the tunnel is seven years.