The MEIL has always displayed a sense of responsibility and serving the nation through its exceptional technological adoptions. One such project of national strategic importance is the Zojila Tunnel. The company is executing the project amidst augean challenges.
NH 1, the national highway between Srinagar and Leh of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir, is closed for six months during winters due to heavy snowfall. This restricts the movement of military vehicles, leading to high inaccessibility and wastage of time. Therefore, there is a need to provide year-long transportation access to the Indian forces stationed there. Moreover, since the Srinagar and Ladakh regions are located adjacent to the international borders of Pakistan and China, national security is a concern.
Bridging the gap
The inaccessibility gap can be bridged by constructing a connecting road tunnel from Sonamarg to Leh via Kargil between the Z- Morh Tunnel and Zojila Tunnel on National Highway - 1. The strategic Zojila Tunnel will resolve the inaccessibility issue, enhancing military mobility.
Further, the Central government of India aims to improve tourism in these regions. The tunnel will also help the 'Amarnath Yatra' pilgrims, whose base camp is in Baltal.
The MEIL is executing the Zojila Tunnel project for the National Highway and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) under the Engineering, Construction, and Procurement (EPC) mode.
The Zojila Tunnel is considered one of the most complicated tunnel constructions globally. Yet, despite heavy snowfall for eight months, the tunnel building work continues. The company is constructing the tunnel on complex rocky terrains, 11,578 ft above sea level. Streamlets at various alignment points of the tunnel make the work challenging, but work never ceased, even when temperatures dropped to – 40 degrees.
The implementation strategy
The MEIL has adapted the most complex and modern methods for constructing the Zojila Tunnel. In line with the European standards, the company is implementing the New Austrian Tunnelling Method (NATM) technology. Once completed, the tunnel will have automatic and emergency lighting, emergency phone, message signalling, and radio to ensure the safety of travellers. Vehicles can travel at a speed of 80-km per hour in the tunnel. The project will enhance the region's trade network and economically uplift the area. The MEIL's workforce is working diligently 24x7 to complete the project on time.
Execution Overview (Paragraphs)
The MEIL is executing the 3 tunnels with a total length of 15.5 km under Zojila Project. The Nilgrar tunnel-1 is 435-metres-long, the Nilgrar tunnel-2 is 1,950-metres-long while the Zojila tunnel which is the main tunnel is the 13.145-km-long Asia’s longest bi-directional tunnel. This main tunnel is U-shaped, 9.5 metres wide, and 7.57 metres in height. As of date, 8.8 km long tunnelling works has completed which is more than 50 per cent of tunnel works under this project.
On completion, the tunnel will provide year-long connectivity between Srinagar and Ladakh, cutting the travel time from 3.5 hours to 45 minutes. The year-long connectivity will help in the financial, cultural, and communal development of the Srinagar and Ladakh regions.
The construction involves making portals, shafts, bridges, control building, ventilation building, and muck disposal at the base camp of the Amarnath Yatra pilgrims. Along with the main Zojila Tunnel, the MEIL is also building a 2,350-metre-long cut and cover tunnel in eight segments with ventilation ducts, three conventional shafts, and two transverse ventilation systems shafts.
The tunnel will include a unique transport ventilation system with three vertical shafts – a 500-metre-high west shaft, 385-metres-high central shaft, and 220-metres-high East shaft. It also includes retaining walls, brick walls, gabion constructions, and mud walls for a distance of 10-km. In addition, the company is equipping the tunnel with catch dams, air blasts, protection walls, and deflator dams for a distance of 6 km for protection from snowstorms..