Ladakh is one of the underdeveloped regions of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Though the biggest division in terms of the geographical area it occupies, the region is faced with difficult terrain and an unbearable weather conditions.
Even though various initiatives have been taken by the government ( both at the federal and the local level) to get this region connected to the other parts of the state through an all-weather connectivity road, but very little progress has been observed on the ground level.
Last year the Union government issued a contract worth 10050 Cr to IRB Infrastructure Developers to construct the Zojila tunnel on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh highway. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways issued the orders for the construction, operation and maintenance of the longest tunnel in South Asia, Zojila pass tunnel to the company and asked it to start work on the project at an earliest.
Technically speaking it is the biggest national highway project awarded in India in terms of project cost with a tunnel length spanning 14.08 km and costing of Rs 10050 crore. This project has a strategic and socio-economic importance as it will provide the much-needed all-weather connectivity between Kashmir valley and Ladakh, which remains cut-off during winter due to heavy snowfall.
The project also involves construction of a tunnel spanning a length of 14.08 km and an approach road of 10.8 km with three vertical ventilation shafts, a snow gallery of 700 meters and avalanche protection measures.
The construction of the tunnel is scheduled to be completed in seven years and the concession period is 22 years.
Importantly, work is already in progress on another tunnel near Z-Morh, 20 kms away from Zojila pass, on Srinagar-Kargil-Leh highway.
Coming up at a cost of Rs 2716.90 crore, the Z-Morh tunnel was expected to be completed this year, but given the way things work in our state, it will take much longer to complete the project.
Therefore the need to connect this difficult terrain region by some other alternate means like the railways is a decision that will boost the economy of the region and bring it at par with other developed regions of the state.
Ladakh is the largest region among the three divisions of the state in terms of area. It is a desert plateau located at a height of 11,000 feet above sea level. Owing to its geographical location and cold region, it remains cut off from the rest of the state and the world for six months of winter when there is heavy snow on the ground.
However, during summer, it is a choice tourist destination for Indian and foreign tourists. Ladakh region offers the great cultural entertainment as people have maintained the Buddhist traditions going back to more than two thousand years.
The laying of the foundation for the Final Location Survey of the project of railway line to Leh from Bilaspur via Manali, a total length of 498 kilometers across the mountainous States of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir over an average height of 600 meters to 5300 meters above sea level at a cost of 157 crore rupees is of immense importance and this project needs to be taken seriously.