After four failed attempts of awarding and cancelling contracts to private firms, the Narendra Modi government on Monday decided to build the 14.08-km stretch of Zojila tunnel project in Jammu and Kashmir using its own funds. The proposed tunnel connecting Srinagar and Ladakh region is estimated to be worth Rs 10,000 crore.
National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) will build the tunnel, the Financial Express reported.
Following the cabinet's clearance in 2013, the project was originally supposed to be developed on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis. However after four failed attempts, the government has decided to take matters into its own hands.
Located at an altitude of 11,578 feet on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh national highway, the tunnel will also have a 10.8 km approach road with ventilation shafts, snow gallery and avalanche-protection measures, Financial Express added. This would ensure connectivity to Ladakh region during the harsh winter season, which at present, remains inaccessible due to bad weather conditions.
Earlier this year, IRB Infrastructure Developers were found to be qualified on all parameters after rounds of bidding, but following allegations of showing "favouritism" towards the company, Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari cancelled the contract without giving any reason for doing so.
The Zojila tunnel — the longest in Southeast Asia — is expected be of great socio-economic importance for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. IRB Infrastructure won the contract in a round of competitive bidding in January this year. Touted to be India's most-expensive road project, the tunnel will have great socio-economic importance for the people of Jammu and Kashmir.