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Zojila tunnel, connecting Srinagar and Leh, is Asia's longest: 10 points

The 14-km long tunnel will reduce the travel time between Srinagar and Leh by over three hours. 

Zojila tunnel, connecting Srinagar and Leh, is Asia's longest: 10 points

NEW DELHI: The Union Cabinet has approved the construction of Asia's longest bi-directional Zojila Pass tunnel, which will reduce the travel time on the Zojila pass patch between Srinagar and Leh to 15 minutes from the current 3.5 hours.

Here is everything you need to know about the project:

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

— The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, gave its approval to the construction, operation and maintenance of 2-lane bi-directional Zojila Tunnel with Parallel Escape (Egress) Tunnel excluding approaches on Srinagar-Leh section connecting NH-1A at Km 95 and at Km 118 in Jammu and Kashmir on engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) mode.

— The construction of the tunnel will provide all-weather connectivity between Srinagar, Kargil and Leh and bring about all-round economic and socio-cultural integration of these regions.

— The construction period of the project is seven years which shall be reckoned from the date of commencement of construction. The civil construction cost of the project is Rs 4,899.42 crore.

— The total capital cost of the project is Rs 6,808.69 crore. It includes the cost towards land acquisition, resettlement and rehabilitation and other pre-construction activities as well as maintenance and operation cost of the tunnel for four years.

— The main objective of the project is to provide all-weather connectivity to strategically important Leh region in Jammu and Kashmir which at the moment is limited to at best six months because of snow on the passes and threat of avalanches.

— Once operational, the tunnel would cut the travel time by over three hours while also bringing about all-round economic and socio-cultural integration of the region. Talks about constructing this tunnel had started some 20 years ago.

— As per government, tenders were issued four times for the project but it was only after the government relaxed some technical and financial qualifications that contractors started showing interest.

— The project along with other ongoing projects like 6.5 km long Z-Morh tunnel at Gagangir would ensure safe, fast and cheap connectivity between the two regions of Kashmir and Ladakh

— The project aims at the construction of 14.15 km long two-lane bi-directional single tube tunnel with a parallel 14.2 km long egress tunnel excluding approaches between Baltal and Minamarg in the state.