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Expected next year: 3 strategic tunnels in J&K to boost security & connectivity, cut travel time

Khellani, KM 83 & Z-Morh tunnels will help in ensuring J&K's round-the-year connectivity with rest of India. Currently, NHIDCL is undertaking six projects worth Rs 18,539 crore.

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New Delhi: With the construction of three of the six tunnels, including the strategic Z-Morh tunnel, expected to be completed by mid-2023, road connectivity between Jammu and Kashmir and the rest of India is set to get a big leg up.

Four of the six tunnels are coming up on National Highway-244, connecting Jammu to Anantnag. They are the Khellani tunnel, the KM 83 tunnel, Shuddhmadev-Dranga tunnel and Singhpora-Vailoo tunnel. Once the four tunnels are ready, travel time between Jammu and Anantnag will reduce from the current 11-12 hours to 6 hours.

The remaining two tunnels on NH-1 — the strategically crucial Zojila and Z-Morh — will provide all-weather road connectivity between Srinagar and Kargil.

The National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL), a unit of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, is implementing all the six tunnel projects, worth Rs 18,539 crore.

“These tunnels are important from a strategic point of view and will provide round-the-year connectivity between Jammu and Kashmir to the rest of India and will also spur economic activity in the region,” NHIDCL managing director Chanchal Kumar told ThePrint.

Kumar added that the tunnels will not only come as a boost for the security forces, but will also ease travel for civilians.

Currently, during the winter, heavy snowfall frequently disrupts road movement on NH-244, connecting Jammu to Anantnag, and NH-1, connecting Srinagar to Kargil.

Strategic J & K tunnels under construction
Strategic J & K tunnels under construction| Graphics by: Manisha Yadav | ThePrint

Also Read: Pending under UPA, speeding under NDA — 10 big-ticket infra projects that picked up after 2014 

Three tunnels to be ready by 2023

Kumar said the three tunnels likely to be completed next year are Khellani, ‘KM 83’, and Z-Morh. The Khellani tunnel is expected to be ready by May and the ‘KM 83’ tunnel by April.

The Z-Morh tunnel, connecting Srinagar to Sonamarg, is likely to be ready by mid-2023. “Though the official date of completion of the Z-Morh tunnel is December 2023, we are hoping to finish work three-four months before the targeted date,” a senior NHIDCL officer said.

The strategically important 14.15 km tunnel coming up at Zojila, connecting Srinagar to Kargil, is expected to be completed by September 2026. The existing NH-1, connecting Srinagar to Leh, remains shut six months on account of snowfall. Once ready, the Zojila tunnel will reduce the travel time between Srinagar and Leh by around 3 hours and 15 minutes.

The geo-sensitive Zojila stretch, which is strategically important from defence perspective, will not only provide all-weather connectivity between Srinagar, Drass, Kargil and Leh, but also further strengthen economic and social-cultural integration of both the Union Territories.

Bids for two tunnels on NH-244 soon

NHIDCL will shortly open bids for two more tunnels on NH-244 — the 8 km Shudhmahadev-Dranga tunnel worth Rs 3,703 crore, and the 10.3 km Singhpora-Vailoo tunnel worth Rs 4,808 crore.

“We will open the bids soon and intend to award work on both the projects this fiscal,” Kumar said.

Currently, highway projects worth over Rs 50,000 crore are underway in the region and implemented by agencies including NHIDCL and Border Road Organisation (BRO). The BRO and the Public Works Department in Jammu and Kashmir are implementing over 24 NH projects.

(This is an updated version of the report)

(Edited by Geethalakshmi Ramanathan)

Also Read: In J&K, Modi announces projects worth Rs 20,000 cr, private investment of Rs 38,000 cr


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