Z-Morh tunnel on Srinagar-Leh NH

True to its commitment to accelerate the pace of infrastructural development in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir, the Central Government has approved construction of 6.5 kilometres long Z-Morh tunnel on Srinagar -Leh National Highway . An agreement to that extent too stands entered into between National Highway Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) and the executing Agency that has to construct the tunnel involving a cost of Rs.2400 crores and is expected to be operational by the year 2024 . This is a landmark decision taken by the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways and loaded with bettering the lot of the region economically and in terms of round the year mobility. Previous Central Governments took half baked initiatives and kept on making announcements only but construction of this strategic tunnel remained elusive and the people of the two UTs must now feel confident with the latest imitative taken by the Central Government.
In addition to this, the utility and importance of this tunnel get enhanced as the area being vital from strategic point of view since that part of the country shares Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China and Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan in Ladakh and Kargil sectors respectively. Besides, opening up for civilian traffic, this tunnel would be useful in adequate and hassles free movement of our troops in the area especially during trying five months of the winter. Hence from Defence point of view this tunnel was of paramount importance. There was a long pending demand to this end from the people of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh for construction of a tunnel and now decks for the same having been cleared , was going to remove the otherwise looking inherent characterises of this region remaining closed inter-se during the winter months.
The highlights of the signing of the agreement, besides others are that the same was inked in presence of the Union Minister and his senior team and the executing agency in New Delhi with stress on both speed and quality. The tunnel besides construction shall have post construction facilities like maintenance, operation , repairs etc with approaches on National Highway 1 at Srinagar – Sonamarg – Gumri Road on a vast stretch on Design , Build, Finance , Operation and Transfer (DBFOT) Annuity basis. It, in other words means that the project emerges viable and self- sustainable and annuity is one of the forms of Build- Operate – Transfer where the road developer is awarded the project and the cost of building the road is paid to it on a six month basis after the project starts functioning. It is not that all preparation to this effect were not going on as the proposal was mooted earlier and bids re-invited in 2019 and opened in August same year leading to culmination of a formal agreement.
The real test of the pace of construction seen in the light of its 2 lane bi- directional tunnel with parallel escape tunnel and expected completion time of within 3.5 years will be perused as to how in challenging weather conditions and difficult mountainous terrain with all its complications , the project would successfully be completed. The job is not that simple and it is learnt that a dedicated team of professionals , engineers and technicians is expected to be stationed in Ladakh not only for this project but for identification and development of other vital projects in the UT in vital sectors like tourism, solar energy and basic infrastructure.