It may soon be light at the end of the tunnel for Zojila project

In February, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said the tunnel might undergo some design changes to prevent cost escalation as the government plans to complete it at the earlier estimated cost of about Rs 6,800 crore.
The much delayed Zojila tunnel project might receive a makeover with the government planning to make changes to the project structure. The changes are expected to be finalised soon and the project might be auctioned again by year end.

A senior government official said, “A fresh concept development approach to the project is being contemplated”. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, the National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL) and other stakeholders are looking at multiple options. 

The official quoted above said one of the options was to start the project as a unidirectional tunnel and graduate to a bidirectional project later, or if it should go full throttle as it had planned to do earlier. Experts, however, said making it one-way would not help reduce cost and it might not achieve the objective of getting it off the ground.

“The Zojila project is strategic, and one of the concerns when it went for bidding again was cost escalation. We could look at the option of partnering with the Ministry of Defence and get partial funding by highlighting it as a strategic project and how this will augment and strengthen the movement of men and material,” said an official.

In February, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said the tunnel might undergo some design changes to prevent cost escalation as the government plans to complete it at the earlier estimated cost of about Rs 6,800 crore.

The project, first conceptualised in 2013, has strategic importance because of its proximity to both Pakistan and China. Zojila pass is situated at an altitude of 11,578-ft on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National Highway and once completed it will be country’s longest road tunnel. It aims to provide all-weather connectivity between Leh and Srinagar, which are otherwise disconnected for about six months because of snowfall.

There have been five auctions since 2013. The last time it was bid out, in May 2017, four private players participated — L&T, IL&FS, Jaypee Infratech, and Reliance Infra.

In July 2017, the contract was awarded to IL&FS Transportation Networks at a price of Rs 4,899 crore and it was expected to construct the tunnel in 7 years. In January 2018, IL&FS received the letter of acceptance from NHIDCL for project construction.

However, the project was scrapped in March 2019 after IL&FS went bankrupt and it was set to be bid out again.

The civil construction cost of the project is Rs 4,899 crore and the total capital cost of the project is Rs 6,808 crore, which includes the cost of land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation and other pre-construction activities, as well as maintenance and operation cost of tunnel for four years.

 
LONG-PENDING PROJECT

2013: Zojila project first announced. But it got delayed mainly because there were few takers for implementation in a tough terrain

January 3, 2018: The construction, operation, and maintenance of Zojila Tunnel in Jammu & Kashmir was approved by the Union Cabinet again

January 24, 2018: The project was bagged by IL&FS Transportation Networks. A pact was signed between the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL) under the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways and IL&FS Transportation Networks for construction.

THE MAKING OF INDIA’S LARGEST ROAD TUNNEL
  • 14.2 Km long two-lane bi-directional single tube tunnel with a parallel 14.2 km long exit tunnel between Baltal

  • The total capital cost of the project is Rs 6,809cr

  • The civil construction cost of the project is Rs 4,899 cr

  • Construction period of the project is seven years

  • Tunnel will have a cut and cross-ventilation mechanism, fully transverse ventilation system, uninterrupted power supply, CCTV monitoring, traffic logging equipment, emergency telephone system


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