On Saturday the Prime Minster of India Narender Modi laid the foundation stone of the Zojilla tunnel. The tunnel will be built for all weather connectivity for the hilly region Ladakh to connect it with the rest of country via Srinagar. Zojila-most treacherous pass alongside the 430 kilometres Srinagar –Leh highway remains under the snow for over six months, therefore cutting off the road connectivity between the Leh and Srinagar.
In view of this seasonal connectivity of Ladakh region comprising two districts of Kargil and Leh the region remains off the world for over six months causing huge difficulties to the local populace. While the twin districts of the region have less than three lakh population, it comprises however 65 per cent of the total area of Jammu and Kashmir state. The region also shares its borders with China and Pakistan and has witnessed many misadventures by the hostile neighbours in past.
Locals believe that the region was over looked by successive regimes and there demand of three decades for the constructing of tunnel was never considered for all weather connectivity. However, in the recent past when the China started infiltrating into some areas of Leh and army faced trouble in pushing Pakistan back in Kargil war in 1999 due to non availability of road network New Delhi woke up to the concern. Until then the internal roadwork was in shambles.
Today it has hundreds of kilometres of blacktopped two lane road network connecting the Drass to Kargil-Leh. It has further been progressed to the world famous Pong Gong Lake and the work is under progress in full gear. The Zojila tunnel which is believed to be an engineering marvel would be constructed with a whopping 6800 crores approximately and scheduled to be completed by 2026. The 14.2 kilometres Asia’s largest tunnel will reduce the distance of journey at Zojila from 3.5 hours to 15 minutes.
This tunnel if completed in a time bound manner will be one of the most pro people initiatives by New Delhi to the people of Ladakh region and ensure their socioeconomic integration with the rest of India. In absence of all weather connectivity the region has suffered the worst in all times despite having huge potential of tourism.
The region with landscape views, unending deserts, highest mountainous range, freezing lakes and ponds is already on the map of tourism across the world in summers and attracts rich tourist lot; however, its adventurous winter tourism is yet to be tapped which may prove bonanza for the local population. The all weather connectivity will offer an opportunity to explore the winter tourism of the region.
At the same time it will also give a major boost to the strategic 16 Corps of army stationed in the cold desert overlooking the Line of Control and Line of Actual Control with Pakistan and China respectively. As off the army in the region doesn’t only face the difficulties in maintaining the stock for its men in winters, however, it also incurs huge losses to the national economy for its transportation.
With this tunnel the miseries will be over of both the army as well as of local populace. It will also provide opportunities of employment to the local people who face many hardships in absence of any of its economic corridor with the rest of country and always live on the mercy of weather to move out of this mountainous valley.