• Government is pushing to complete the massive Zojila tunnel, its showpiece infra project in Kashmir and Ladakh, before Republic Day, 2024. Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari inspected the west portal of the tunnel in Baltal.
• At 14.15 km, the Zojila tunnel will be India’s longest road tunnel, and Asia’s longest bi-directional tunnel. A connecting tunnel from Z-Morh on NH1 to the Zojila tunnel will be built in the Zojila Ghats between Sonmarg and Kargil.
• When complete, the Zojila tunnel will allow travel between Srinagar and Ladakh throughout the year.
• The distance from Baltal to Minamarg will come down to 13 km from the present 40 km, travel time is expected to be cut by an hour and a half, and the journey is expected be less strenuous.
• The project is expected to lead to integrated development of both Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
• The work on the entire 33-km span is divided into two divisions.
• The first part involves development and expansion of the 18.475-km highway between Z-Morh to Zojila. A 3-km stretch will be expanded; the rest will be newly developed. The highway will have 2 twin-tube tunnels, 5 bridges, and 2 snow galleries.
• The second part is building the 14.15-km Zojila tunnel itself — 9.5 m wide, 7.57 m high, 2 lanes, in shape of a horseshoe.
• In addition, a 2,350-m concrete ‘cut and cover’ tunnel will be built, along with 3 ventilation caverns/shafts. Works also include construction of portals, control buildings, ventilation buildings and muck disposables along the route.
Mains Paper 1: Geography
Prelims level: Zojila tunnel
Mains level: About the tunnel location and geographical importance