Narendra Modi to lay foundation stone of Zojila tunnel on May 19

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lay the foundation stone of Asia’s longest bi-directional Zojila tunnel, connecting Kashmir’s Sonamarg with the Gumri area in Kargil district, on May 19 during his visit to Ladakh.
The 14.15-km tunnel project, to be executed by M/S IL&FS Transportation Networks Ltd, holds strategic and socio-economic importance for Ladakh. First, the project will help India keep a check on the growing influence of China and Pakistan in Ladakh. The tunnel will not only meet the strategic requirements of the nation, but will also reduce the travel time to cross Zojila from three and a half hours to just 15 minutes.
Second, it will be instrumental in the development of the economically backward parts of the region that remains cut-off from the rest of the world for almost six months because of the snow on the high passes and threat of avalanches.
Murtaza Ali, a student from Kargil at Central University of Jammu, says, “It (tunnel) will bring all-round economic and socio-cultural integration of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions. It is like a dream come true for the Ladakhi people, who face hardships due to shortage of essential commodities when the roads are closed for six months. The project will ensure hassle-free travel for patients, traders and students from Kargil to Srinagar and Jammu from Ladakh, who, at present, travel to Leh and from there take a flight to New Delhi or Jammu.”
Nawang Rigzin Jora, Congress MLA from Leh, says the tunnel would provide road connectivity to Ladakh throughout the year. “It was a long-pending demand of the people of the region, which I hope will be a reality soon,” he said.
“It is good that the region will get round-the-year road connectivity, but people here still want reduction in airfares. We don’t know how effectively the tunnel will work for the Ladakhi people in harsh winters, but the reduction of airfares will certainly mitigate their problems,” says Tsewang Thinles, president, Ladakh Buddhist Association.
The construction period of the project is seven years, which would be reckoned from the date of the commencement of construction. Given the tough geographical location, the tunnel will be an engineering marvel having all modern technical safety arrangements.