The Zojila project will be constructed in two sections totaling 33 km. The first will be 18.5 km long, the second will be constructed in the shape of a horseshoe of 14.15 km
The much-awaited Zojila project in Jammu & Kashmir will soon be a reality as the Union government is all set to award the tunnel building portion of the contract to Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Limited (MEIL), which has emerged as the lowest bidder for the job with a quote of Rs 4,509.50 crore.
National Highways and Industrial Development Corporation (NHIDCL), a government body entrusted with the job of executing infrastructure projects in hilly areas, opened the bids on Friday, and Megha Engineering emerged as the lowest bidder for the project.
The Zojila project will be constructed in two sections totaling 33 kilometres. The first section will be 18.5 kilometres long and the second section will be constructed in the shape of a horseshoe of 14.15 km
This tender was for the construction of a 14.15 km road for the Zojila tunnel.
On July 30, three companies submitted the bids to NHIDCL, and the financial bids were opened on August 21.
The road from Srinagar to Leh in Ladakh is not suitable for vehicular traffic throughout the year. The Srinagar-Ladakh highway is completely closed for six months, especially during the winter season. Even the military vehicles are unable to move under these conditions.
Under these circumstances, the road tunnel was proposed between Sonmarg to Leh and Ladakh via Kargil.
In February this year, Union minister Nitin Gadkari had said that the strategic Zojila tunnel for all-year connectivity between Leh and Srinagar may undergo some design changes to prevent cost escalation as the government plans to complete the project at the earlier estimated cost of about Rs 6,800 crore.
The project was first conceptualized in 2013 has strategic importance because of its proximity to both Pakistan and China. It aims to provide all-weather connectivity to Leh and Srinagar, which otherwise remain disconnected for nearly six months due to snowfall.
Zojila first got Cabinet approval in 2013 and has been bid out five times since then, one time there was no bidder and other times only one bidder for the project.
The last time it was bid out was in May 2017 and four private players participated — L&T, ILFS, Jaypee Infratech and Reliance Infra.
In June 2017, the contract was awarded to IL&FS Transportation Networks Ltd in August 2017 at a price of Rs 4,899 crore and a period of 7 years to construct the tunnel, with the goal of providing all-weather connectivity between Kashmir valley and Ladakh.
In January 2018, IL&FS received the letter of acceptance (LOA)) from National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of the road ministry, for project construction.
In March 2019 the project was scrapped to be bid out again as the developer IL&FS went bankrupt.