Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday kickstarted work for Zojila tunnel, Asia’a longest and strategic bi-directional tunnel, to provide all-weather connectivity between Jammu and Kashmir’s Srinagar, Kargil and Leh.
The prime minister who is on a one-day visit to all the three regions – Leh, Kashmir and Jammu– also attended the closing ceremony for the birth centenary celebrations of the 19th Kushok Bakula Rinpoche (Buddhist spiritual guru).
The tunnel will cut down the time taken to cross Zojila pass from the present three and a half hours to just fifteen minutes.
The pass is situated at an altitude of 11,578 feet on Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National Highway and remains closed during winters due to heavy snowfall which cuts off Ladakh region from Kashmir.
As part of the project, 14.15 kilometre-long two lane bi-directional single tube tunnel would be constructed.
At the ceremony, Modi said projects worth Rs 25,000 crore, which would either be initiated or inaugurated on Saturday in all three regions, shows the commitment of the central and the state governments towards the speedy development of the state.
The prime minister unveiled a plaque to mark the commencement of work on the Rs 6,809 crore Zojila tunnel to be completed in five years. “I have asked the ministry concerned to look into ways to reduce the time for completion of this project,” he said.
“It (tunnel) will lead to all-round economic and socio-cultural integration of these regions. It also has immense strategic importance,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.
Modi said when he visited , the first Indian prime minister to do so, he realised that the people there did not know what a prime minister or president was but they remembered Kushok Bakula Rinpoche, who was the Indian envoy there.
“We remember the rich contribution of the 19th Kushok Bakula Rinpoche. His led a life dedicated to serving others,” he said.
He said he was getting a chance to visit all three regions of Jammu and Kashmir in a single day to further development work.
“Every citizen of Jammu and Kashmir will be proud that the Centre and the state government are taking the development forward at such fast pace,” he said.
He said the money invested would go to local families because of the employment generated through these projects.
About the developmental work being carried out in the country, he said 18,000 villages which had not seen power since Independence were given electrical connectivity within 1,000 days.
There were four crore households in country, which had not received electricity even after 70 years of Independence, would be given power connections within a year and a half, he said.
He is scheduled to dedicate 330 MW Kishanganga Hydropower Station to the nation at the Sher-i-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) in Srinagar.
The prime minister would lay the foundation stone of the Pakul Dul power project and ring roads for Jammu and Srinagar, it said.
The ring roads in Srinagar and Jammu aim to reduce traffic congestion and make road travel safer, faster, more convenient and environment friendly, it said.
He would also inaugurate the Tarakote Marg and material ropeway of the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board. The Tarakote Marg will facilitate pilgrims visiting the shrine.
Modi will also attend the Convocation of the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Jammu.