Sonamarg (Kashmir): Union Road Transport and Highways minister Nitin Gadkari here on Tuesday lauded Hyderabad-based engineering giant Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Limited (MEIL) after he reviewed the progress of the Zojila tunnel project, which is being executed by the company.
Gadkari inspected the under-construction Zojila tunnel and expressed his satisfaction with the construction speed. During the press briefing at Baltal, the minister said that the work is being carried out on a war footing and asked the MEIL managing director, Krishna Reddy, to finish the project by December 2023 so that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the tunnel on January 26, in run up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
MEIL bagged the Rs 4,300 crore project in October 2020 after it quoted the least price during the tender process conducted by National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd. (NHIDCL).
The project is supposed to be finished by 2026. However, Gadkari wants MEIL to finish it well ahead of the deadline. “This does not mean that we will compromise with quality. I know it’s a challenge, but I am confident they can do it on time,” the Union minister said.
Earlier, Krishna Reddy, while interacting with the media in Sonamarg, also emphasised on the early completion of the project. He said that the work is being carried out with full speed and will be completed at least a year before the deadline.
The 14.15km tunnel is going to be Asia’s longest bidirectional tunnel and will provide all-weather connectivity from Kashmir valley to Ladkah.
Presently, the road from Srinagar to Leh, is open for only five months in a year owing to extreme
snowfall during winters. The existing Srinagar-Ladakh highway is closed from mid-November
to April, literally cutting off this entire region from the rest of the world. Thus, the significance of this project is crucial.
Once the project is completed, the distance will be reduced (from Baltal to Minamarg) from 40 km
to 13 km, and travel time between the two Union territories will also be reduced by 1.5 hours.
MEIL is constructing this project in the EPC mode (Engineering, Procurement & Construction). Located at an altitude of 11,578 feet above the sea level and the harsh weather conditions in the Himalayas make it a challenging project. On completion, the engineering marvel will be the first of its kind in such a geographical zone.