For the first time, with the construction of the Zojila project and Z-Morh, Sonmarg, the most-sought-after tourist destination in Kashmir, could remain accessible to select traffic this winter.
Connectivity with Sonmarg
“From Srinagar to Sonmarg there are a large number of avalanche areas- that’s why the roads remain closed for half the year. The Approach and exit , timings, duration will be decided by the UT of J&K,” said Brigadier GS Kambo, Executive director, National Highways & Infrastructure Development corporation limited. Union road transport and highway minister Nitin Gadkari has reviewed the tunnels 1 and tunnel 2 at Nilgrar site. The minister will drive through the twin tube tunnel of 435 m length each on Tuesday for the first time. He will also visit Zojila through east and west ends. “The inhabitants of Sonmarg have to move down to more habitable areas. The Z-Morh tunnel which is a stretch of 6.5 km will connect Sonmarg along with a 5 km approach road. It is a bi-direction tunnel along with an escape tunnel for any eventuality.,” he said.
Key features of the Project
The first one is the development of an 18.5 km highway and the second part is the tunnel which is 14.15 km long. The first part is the development and expansion of a 3.018 km highway from Z-more to Zojila tunnel. And a new highway of 13.842 km has to be built consisting of twin tube tunnels, 435 meters and 1950 metres long, along with five bridges, each 300 metres long. Two snow galleries have to be built, each of 150 metres in length.
Cost of the Project
The Zojila tunnel, once completed, will be Asia's longest bi-directional tunnel. The project cost of the Z-Morh tunnel is Rs 2,300 crore and that of the Zojila tunnel is Rs 4,600 crore.
The tunnels will provide connectivity between Sonmarg and Srinagar and then till Ladakh. The all-weather connectivity will benefit both the locals as well as the armed forces immensely, said the official. Avalanches will also not affect traffic on the road because of the technology used.
Building the tunnels
Work started way back in 2012, but the union ministry of Road Transport and Highways took a decision in 2018 that the project must come up in 3-4 years. “The original timeline for completion of the project is December 2023. We are ahead of the schedule - 6.5 escape tunnel connectivity was established in June, we may even finish part one of the tunnel by August 2022,” said Kambo.
The present travel time between these cities is three and a half hours but with the tunnels operational it gets reduced to 15 minutes. This new route connects Srinagar and Leh throughout the year and would be helpful in maintaining the social and economic balance of the area.
Apco is the construction agency for Z-Morh tunnel and MEIL is behind the Zojila tunnel. Safety inside both tunnels is of paramount importance for the construction companies. Tunnel Lighting System, Fire Hydrants and Hydrant Niches, Fire Extinguishers are all there for safety of people.
The tunnels will also have a traffic control system with a central control room. Emergency lay-bys are also located at short intervals.
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