Completion of Zojila tunnel

It is heartening to note that the much hyped and important all-weather connectivity Zojila Tunnel, the longest road tunnel of the country being built at the highest altitude with no parallel in the world which is under construction at a breakneck speed is hoped to be ready not by but before 2024. Earlier it was expected to be fully commissioned by the year 2026 which means and indicates the super- speed of the work going on for construction of this strategic tunnel and expected completion ahead of the original schedule. With the completion of this tunnel and in record short period would actually mean travel time for passengers commuting by Zojila pass to get drastically reduced. Time saved, it is said, means money saved and that would prove economically increasingly beneficial for the people. In addition to that, the distance between the two Union Territories would get reduced from 40 to 13 kilometres and total travel by nearly two hours. Srinagar and Leh would get connected through this tunnel through Drass and Kargil, Sonamarg in Kashmir and Minamarg in Ladakh are the starting and the terminating points of two Union Territories.
Needless to add, the tunnel holds importance for numerous reasons being constructed in a geo- strategic terrain like Jammu and Kashmir . It may be noted that the other Tunnel Z-More Tunnel was expected to be completed in next three months only which again was a time saving bonanza for travellers / passengers as a saving of net travel time by as much as 6 hours would take place from Leh- Ladakh.
Would not with much speed in construction process in an eco- fragile terrain be a decision worth questioning, the Union Minister had way back in September this year clarified that there would be no compromise with the quality and standard of the construction. Cutting down on time line and completion ahead of scheduled time would mean cost effectiveness and no scope for any escalation. The tunnel has more ”feathers” to its cap in that as against an estimated cost of construction at Rs.11000 crore, the same has been brought down by Rs.5000 crore . Without mincing words, rarely are projects undertaken and at such a challenging altitude and hostile weather that cost reduction would be to this extent. Hence it goes without saying that this tunnel would set a benchmark of not only the engineering marvel, quality and standards as also total cost and the most important factor of time schedule which if getting extended due to any reason would mean tremendous cost additions . Prudence and professional planning needed in good measure to take care of these vital aspects must get percolated in other projects undertaken or planned to be started anywhere in the country.
Zojila Tunnel came up for discussion in the Parliament where the Union Minister was sharing all about the tunnel as also about construction of road network and with a good pace which he claimed had picked up during the last seven years. The House was informed that there were no shortage of funds for implementation of road projects and a country could become rich on account of good roads which indicates faster and more movement, more economic activities, more employment, more turnover of goods and raw material and more contribution towards upping and growth in the country’s annual GDP.
However, if a due mention of the workforce comprising 1000 persons working in most challenging circumstances of minus 8 degrees Celsius in construction of the Zojila Tunnel is not made, it would denote describing the characteristics of the tunnel in half-baked manner. The Union Minister made a mention of this fact in the Parliament recently while sharing the latest position of the tunnel with the Members.
For the last few years there has taken place an appreciable growth in the road network – both highways and connecting roads including improving and widening existing road network.