Govt plans to build Zojila-like tunnel to Ladakh


The tunnel will reduce the travel time to the Ladakh region by 15-20 per cent and come up close to the Atal tunnel near Rohtang Pass, reports Megha Manchanda.

IMAGE: Construction work is underway on strategic Atal Tunnel in the Pir Panjal ranges of Himachal Pradesh. Photograph: @SpokespersonMoD/Twitter

Soon after awarding the Zojila tunnel project, the road transport and highways ministry has started discussions with the defence ministry to build another such all-weather connectivity to the Ladakh region -- this time, via Shingo La or Shinkula mountain pass in Himachal Pradesh.

The two departments are in preliminary talks to build a tunnel that would reduce the travel time to the Ladakh region by 15-20 per cent and would come up close to the Atal tunnel near Rohtang Pass.

Atal tunnel -- connecting Manali in Himachal Pradesh with Leh, Ladakh, and Jammu and Kashmir -- was re-christened in December to commemorate the 95th birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to inaugurate the tunnel shortly.

The cost of the proposed Shingo La tunnel project is expected to be similar to that of the recently awarded Zojila tunnel project.

In August, Hyderabad-based Megha Engineering and Infrastructure emerged the lowest bidder for executing the Zojila tunnel project with a quote of Rs 4,509.50 crore.

Larsen & Toubro and IRCON International JV were the other two contenders for the project.

The project is of strategic importance as Zojila Pass is situated at an altitude of 11,578 feet on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National Highway and remains shut during winters due to heavy snowfall.

The National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation in June had invited fresh bids for the project and the project was awarded in less than three months to the lowest bidder.

The work on Zojila project is expected to begin next month.

NHIDCL, an arm of road ministry, is engaged in the execution of road projects in the hilly terrain.

It has awarded several such tunnel projects in Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.