Zojila Pass
The Zojila tunnel will be built between Srinagar and Leh, Picture: National Highway 1Den.wikipedia.org

Mumbai-based firm IRB Infrastructure has bagged Rs 10,050 crore project — considered the largest National Highway project awarded in India — to construct and maintain a 14.8-km tunnel in Jammu & Kashmir.

The Zojila tunnel project includes approaches on NH-1 in the state of Jammu and Kashmir on design, build, operate and transfer basis. The Leh-to-Srinagar tunnel will be built over a period of seven years, the company has said in a statement.

The Zojila tunnel — the longest in Southeast Asia — will have great socio-economic importance for the people of Jammu & Kashmir. IRB Infrastructure won the contract in a competitive bidding which includes a 22-year concession period, the company said in a regulatory filing with the BSE.

"We have received the letter of award for the project and hope to finish the preparatory work soon so the construction can start by October 2016. The project will take seven years to complete, as we will have only six months a year to work," Virendra Mhaiskar, CEO of IRB Infrastructure, said in a statement to the Economic Times.

The Zojila National Highway is located between Srinagar and Leh, and remains shut six months in a year due to heavy snowfall. According to reports, the tunnel will be built at an altitude of 3,528 metres.

Given the strategic nature of the tunnel for Jammu & Kashmir's transport, the government is keen that work on the tunnel begins soon, Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari was quoted as saying by the Economic Times.

"The Zojila project will enhance the connectivity of the area, which will go a long way to boost tourism and activities of the region," Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Chief Minister Nirmal Singh was quoted as saying by PTI.