Indian Army can use the Zojila tunnel in September 2024

Authorities are on an overdrive to build a strategic Zojila tunnel in Kashmir to reduce travel time to Ladakh where China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is aggressively pushing its territorial claims along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

The need for the Zojila tunnel was first felt during the 1999 Kargil war and the recent incursions by China made it an urgent necessity.

The tunnel will provide logistics flexibility and operational mobility to the Indian Army as it will reduce the travel time on Zojila Pass from 3.5 hours to 15 minutes, Singh said.

During the harshest winter when temperatures went down to -30 degrees C, Singh said nearly 1,000 employees of the MEIL were working in the remote mountains to complete the work.

Zojila tunnel, which marks the end of the conifer-clad mountains of Kashmir Valley, will connect Sonamarg in Kashmir with Minamarg in cold desert Ladakh.

To be built at a cost of Rs 2,600 crore, the horseshoe-shaped Zojila tunnel will be India’s longest street burrow and the highest tunnel at 3,485 meters.

With changing geological composition of the Himalayas, Singh says the MEIL is using drilling and blasting methods for the Zojila tunnel instead of commonly used Tunnel Boring Machines.

The Zoji La project consists of 18-km tunnels and 17-km roads, three vertical shafts, and four bridges.

Presently, the Zojila Pass that connects Kashmir’s capital city Srinagar to Ladakh is motorable only for six months only as the accumulation of snow makes it inaccessible during winters.

It creates inconveniences for civilians in Ladakh who have to stockpile the ration before winter sets in.