The work in strategic Zojila tunnel along the Srinagar Leh highway has been halted after a recent series of snow avalanches in Ganderbal district of Jammu and Kashmir left two workers dead.
Officials said this is for the first time after the construction of the 13-km long Zojila Tunnel commenced in April 2021, the work has been stopped from Kashmir side.
The work on the tunnel- which will connect Sonamarg in Kashmir with Minamarg in cold desert Ladakh- is being executed by Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Ltd. (MEIL).
Project head of the MEIL, Harpal Singh said the works on the tunnel were in full swing till January 10.
But series of avalanches and keeping in safety of our workers, the work on the tunnel has been stopped from the Kashmir side, Singh said.
After we were awarded the tunnel construction work, we never stopped work. This is the first time that work has been halted and may remain suspended for a month.
Singh, however, said the work on the Minamarg Ladakh side of the tunnel is still underway.
Minamarg is not an avalanche prone area and the previous night the temperature there was minus 30 degrees and even the day temperature is around minus 10. But work is underway on that side, Singh said.
After the recent snow, a massive snow avalanche hit Serbal village close to the under construction tunnel on January 12 killing two labourers from Kishtwar district of Jammu and Kashmir.
Two days later another snow avalanche hit the area and according to officials the avalanches transported about 50,000 metric cubes of snow.
Zojila tunnel and 6.5-km Z-Morh tunnels are part of a strategic project for ensuring round-the-year connectivity between Kashmir and Ladakh region which remains closed during the winters due to heavy snowfall.
The deadline to complete the Zojila project is November 2026 but there is likelihood that it may be completed ahead of its deadline.
The all-weather connectivity will provide a lot of relief to the Army and the local people. The Indian Army has been facing a hostile China along the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh since May 2020.