New Delhi: In a significant move, the Centre on Wednesday approved the strategic Zojila pass tunnel project in Jammu and Kashmir to facilitate all-weather connectivity between Kashmir Valley and Ladakh, which remains cut off during winter due to heavy snowfall.
The Cabinet also approved the `5,369-crore Jal Vikas Marg Project for enhanced navigation on the Haldia-Varanasi stretch of National Waterway-1 (NW-1).
The Zojila pass is situated at an altitude of 11,578 feet on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh NH which remains closed between December and April.
“Cabinet approves Zojila tunnel project, Jal Vikas Marg project,” an official source said here after the meeting of the Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari had earlier said, “We understand the plight of the people in Leh and Ladakh region who face severe crisis during winters when they are cut off from the rest of India for six months. We are committed to undertaking the project.”
On March 1, 2016, the transport ministry had ordered “re-bidding” for the project, which had been awarded to IRB Infrastructure. The decision was taken at a high-level meeting, chaired by Mr Gadkari, after Congress leader Digvijay Singh alleged that guidelines were violated while awarding the contract. The ministry, however, had denied the charges.
IL&FS Transportation in July last had said it has emerged as the lowest bidder for `4,899-crore Zojila pass tunnel project.
The Rs 5,369-crore Jal Vikas Marg Project (JVMP), which received the Cabinet’s clearance, falls in UP, Bihar, Jharkha-nd, West Bengal and major districts under its ambit are Varanasi, Ghazipur, Ballia, Buxar, Chhapra, Vaishali, Patna, Begusarai, Khagaria, Munger, Bhagalpur, Sahibganj, Murshidabad, Pakur, Hoogly and Kolkata.
The project is expected to be completed by March, 2023 and will provide an alternative mode of transport that will be environment friendly and cost-effective.
The project will contribute in bringing down the logistics cost, the government said adding that it will boost infrastructure development like multi-modal and inter-modal terminals, Roll on-Roll off (Ro-Ro) facilities, ferry services, navigation aids.
“NW-1 development & operations will lead to direct employment generation to the tune of 46,000 and indirect employment of 84,000 will be generated by vessel construction industry,” the statement said.