The government on Wednesday approved the construction of a 14.1-km-long two-lane tunnel at Zojila pass, which would provide all weather connectivity to Srinagar, Kargil and Leh in Jammu and Kashmir.
The tunnel, including the cost of land acquisition, is estimated to cost Rs6,808 crore, road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari said.
The cabinet committee on economic affairs (CCEA) on Wednesday approved infrastructure projects costing Rs12,178 crore, including the two-lane tunnel at Zojila pass.
Zojila, situated on the Srinagar-Kargil Leh National Highway at an altitude of 11,578 feet, remains closed during winters (December to April) due to heavy snowfall and avalanches cutting off Ladakh.
"As per my information, it will be the longest all-weather tunnel in Asia and among the highest passes in the world which is strategically very important for India as Kargil is a vulnerable sector given the history of infiltration from Pakistani side," the minister said. "Traveling through this stretch currently takes three hours. Once operational, the tunnel will reduce the travel time to 15 minutes," he said.
The tunnel is being constructed on government-funded engineering procurement and construction model and will be operational in seven years. The government is also building a parallel single lane escape tunnel. IL&FS has placed the lowest bid of Rs 4,899 crore for the construction of the tunnel.
The construction of approaches of this tunnel is being undertaken separately.
The project will be implemented by ministry of road transport and highways (MoRT&H) through National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL).
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi will do the 'bhoomi pujan' of the project once weather clears up in the region," Gadkari said.