The tunneling mechanism is one of the conspicuous inventions of man on earth to revolutionize travel and connectivity. Areas that are profusely mountainous and punctuated with tough geographical terrain are always in a dire need of quality tunnels to make round the year accessibility easier and faster despite the vagaries of harsh weather. Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh regions are highly volatile areas in terms of tough geography. Lofty mountains, slippery tops, ridges, ravines and landslide-prone areas have defined and deeply impacted the roads of Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh cutting off connectivity especially during the winter months and the journey taking an awful lot of time during the summer time. Due to these reasons the travel on such roads of the region has become imminently dangerous and also resulted in countless accidents and loss of life thereby. Now, in a series of optimistic developments, the tunnels are being made across Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh regions making journeys very easy and mitigating the perils of accidents. This is also going to ensure round the year connectivity across the region. Once, more tunnels come up, the journey from Ladakh or Kashmir to the other parts of country would be not only hassle free but also quick and safe. With more road tunnels being constructed under the supervision of Union Minister of Roads, Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari in coming years, the journey from Srinagar to Leh would be quick, yearlong and safe. These tunnels would also make the dream of Jammu and Kashmir’s rail connectivity with the rest of the country a reality. These tunnels being commissioned and constructed by the year 2030 would revolutionize connectivity and will prove unimaginably prosperous to the entire Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh regions. During my recent visit to enthralling Sonamarg area facilitated by Press Information Bureau (PIB), I could see an engineering marvel, in the shape of under construction 14.15 km Asia’s longest Bi-directional Zojila Tunnel. Built at an altitude of around 12 thousand feet, the tunnel once completed would be among the highest road tunnels on the surface of the earth. One of the fine infrastructure agencies of India MEIL (Megha Engineering & Infrastructures Limited) taking lead in building this tunnel is doing wonders at such a high altitude. The cutoff time for the completion of the task, which had prior been set for 2026, has been minimised by almost three years to December 2023 and is expected to be thrown open for public on the eve of India’s Republic Day 2024. Upon fruition, the Zojila passage will be India’s longest street burrow just as the earth’s most noteworthy passage, as indicated by the public authority during a presser on 28thSeptember. So far, the Zojila Pass that connects Srinagar to Leh is motorable just for almost half the year only.
Trade and commerce in the region would no longer be a set of hectic activities but a fruitful and cherished endeavour inviting the attention of national and international investors in the region. The game changing Tunnel network coming up in the Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh regions will boost the region in uncountable number of ways.
The street, situated in the precipitous landscape, becomes difficult to reach when snow sets in during the colder months. During a Press Conference on 28th September 2021, the Minister of Road Transport and Highways assured the speedy completion of the tunnel and also expressed his conviction that the development of Zojila Tunnel will be a favaourable step towards the upliftment of socio-economic condition of the regions substantially. Once the tunnel is completed, round the year travel between Srinagar and Ladakh will become a reality and the distance of the Zojila pass will be reduced from 40 kilometers to 13 kilometers thus reducing the travel time by 1.5 hours between the two newly formed Union Territories. This supreme project will lead to an integrated development of both Jammu and Kashmir and the Ladakh regions at maximum speed. Pertinently, the world class Qazigund – Banihal and the Nashri Tunnels which have been completed in recent years by the Union Government have made traveling experience swift and convenient. The Z – Morh Tunnel once completed, will make Sonamarg and Ladakh regions the gateway of tourism throughout the year. Above all, what I could envisage was that after few years when these world class roads and tunnels are built we won’t be able to find much difference between the road and connectivity infrastructure of Europe continent and Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh regions.The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways embarking on these mega road projects especially providing chain of tunnels, four lanes roads between different cities and villages of entire Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh regions and other parts of the country is a step towards revolutionizing road connectivity of the entire country. Tunnel network in Jammu and Kashmir would not just be a major infrastructure and connectivity boost but it will also have a positive impact on the economy of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh regions. Trade and commerce in the region would no longer be a set of hectic activities but a fruitful and cherished endeavour inviting the attention of national and international investors in the region. The game changing Tunnel network coming up in the Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh regions will boost the region in uncountable number of ways.
(The author is a Kashmir based Journalist. Press Information Bureau Srinagar has mailed this article to “ Kashmir Horizon” for publication in this newspaper. Views are his own)