Zojila tunnel project delayed again
Work on the crucial and the much awaited Zojila tunnel has been delayed again. The State-owned NHIDCL has terminated the contract awarded to troubled IL&FS group for building the strategic tunnel which had got the cabinet approval recently so as to provide all-weather connectivity between Srinagar, Kargil and Leh.
The National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (NHIDCL) has intimated the decision to IL&FS a few days back and informed them about the decision as IL&FS is faced with a severe debt crisis.
The contract for construction, operation and maintenance of 2-Lane Bi-Directional Zojila Tunnel was awarded by NHIDCL in the state as IL&FS had emerged the lowest bidder for the project that is of critical importance to the region of Leh and Kargil.
The Zojila tunnel is the only viable alternative to ensure Ladakh and Kargil is connected to Srinagar all through the year. The project will not only enhance the safety of travelers crossing the Zojila Pass but will also make the travel on Srinagar-Kargil-Leh Section of NH-1 free from avalanches.
The dream project though very tough to execute shall bring about all-round economic and socio-cultural integration of these regions, which remain cut-off from the rest of the state during winters due to heavy snowfall for about six months.
However, the cancellation of the bid has meant that the project will be delayed once again as the entire process of tendering, bidding and later allotment would be started a fresh which will consume many more months now.
This is the second time that the tender process has been stalled. Earlier the corporation had cancelled the bid of IRB Infrastructure. The decision was taken at a high-level meeting, chaired by Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, after Congress leader Digvijay Singh had alleged that guidelines were violated while awarding the contract. However, after re-bidding in 2017 IL&FS Transportation emerged as the lowest bidder in the rebidding process and the project was handed over to it.
The development to cancel the project comes barely eight months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the work on the Rs 6,800 crore project, in June 2018 billed as the Asia’s longest bi-directional tunnel, in Jammu & Kashmir.
The Zojila Pass is situated at an altitude of 11,578 feet on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National highway and the construction of the tunnel will shorten the time period to cross the Zojila pass from nearly four hours to 20 minutes. This will also ensure safety of the passengers and vehicles as the avalanche prone zone on the pass will be bypassed by construction of this strategic tunnel.
The 14.15-km tunnel project is a dream project for Leh and Kargil region and once the project becomes operational, though it will take at least seven to nine years to see completion-it will be a game changer for the entire region.
Not only will economic activity witness a boost in the area but tourism and other activities are also believed to benefit once the tunnel starts functioning. Now the government should prioritize the entire bidding process and rebidding should be done within a shortest possible time so that the project is not delayed.