18:12 GMT27 September 2020
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    The tunnel, Asia's longest, would cut across the Zojila high mountain pass in Jammu and Kashmir and would provide all-weather connectivity to the strategically important Leh region while, also bringing about all-round economic and socio-cultural integration of the region.

    New Delhi (Sputnik)- Taking a big stride in the direction of breaking the isolation of the communities residing along the border with China with the rest of India, the government has approved the construction of a road tunnel at Zojila — a high mountain pass at Jammu and Kashmir. The tunnel, to be constructed at an estimated cost of $ 951 million, would be Asia's longest bi-directional road tunnel. 

    Apart from providing year-round access to the mainland for the thousands of locals, the tunnel will also streamline the critical supplies to the troops at frontier posts along the border with China and Pakistan. Inclement weather conditions in the mountainous area render surface roads inaccessible for at least six months of the year, causing major hindrance to the supply of essentials to troops in the entire Kargil sector, which has witnessed repeated intrusions and full-scale war in the past.

    "Zojila tunnel will be the longest bi-directional tunnel in Asia. Its construction period will be seven years because of the very difficult terrain where in some areas temperature dips to minus 45 degree Celsius. The tunnel shall be an engineering marvel and a first of its kind in such a geographical area," Nitin Gadkari, India's Road Transport and Highways Minister said after a meeting of the Cabinet.

    The tunnel will reduce the travel time between Srinagar and Leh to 15 minutes from the current 3.5 hours journey, which is possible only for at best 6 months of the year because of snow on the passes and the threat of avalanches. "This project along with other ongoing projects like the 6.5 km long Z-Morh tunnel at Gagangir would ensure safe, fast and cheap connectivity between the two regions of Kashmir and Ladakh," Gadkari added.

    "It has a great strategic importance in the backdrop of massive strategic activities conducted by China and Pakistan along our borders in Ladakh, Gilgit and Baltistan regions. Due to poor infrastructure in these areas, Pakistani troops had intruded the hills of Drass and Batalik sectors during the winter of 1999," a senior government official told Sputnik on condition of anonymity.

    The Zojila tunnel project aims for the construction of 14.15 km long double lane bidirectional single tube tunnel with a parallel 14.2 km long egress tunnel excluding approaches between Baltal & Minamarg in the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

    Zojila pass is situated at an altitude of 11,578 feet on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National Highway, which remains closed during winters (December to April) due to heavy snowfall and avalanches cutting off the Leh-Ladakh region from Kashmir.


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    border area, winter season, avalanche, tunnel, India, China, Ladakh region
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