Keeping the country’s defence preparedness in the light of heightened border tensions with China and even with Pakistan in the Himalayas always in the forefront of priorities, projects of road infrastructure of late have been taking a frontal seat aiming at not only fastest movement of men and material but ensuring all weather connectivity to Ladakh. In this connection, one more stride in strengthening the road connectivity and infrastructure has taken place in the shape of constructing a strategic Shinkula Tunnel in the Union Territory of Ladakh. The approval of this 4.25 km long tunnel, the shortest, safe and the third alternative corridor shall prove of great avail from the point of defence requirements vis-a-vis armed forces for forward areas of Ladakh. In addition to this, connectivity between Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh through this tunnel would be surely possible throughout the year. In this connection, Lieutenant Governors of both the Union Territories recently called on the Defence Minister separately to discuss about the tunnel as also various issues pertaining to respective UTs. Indian engineering marvel has adequately been demonstrated in this most difficult area by working on other similar projects in this area notable among them being the Rohtang Tunnel renamed after the Late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee as Atal Taunnel. Though Atal Tunnel met most of the requirements pertaining to all weather movement but other high altitude mountain passes still pose humps in reaching to the forward areas with ease and speed hence the urgency and importance of Shinkula Tunnel. The work on this tunnel was expected to start soon, now that formal approval has been given, after Detailed Project Report (DPR) and other formalities were completed. This tunnel, once in operation, was also going to further reduce the distance between Manali and Leh. It is an admitted fact that while China kept on strengthening its road infrastructure and putting their resources and wherewithal investing in such strategic projects , we could not timely realise the importance of not only matching preparedness of China in reaching its forward areas but how to ensure all weather connectivity between Ladakh and other parts of the country until only a few years back. Once Zojila Tunnel on Srinagar Leh Highway gets completely built, it would herald a new chapter in all weather road connectivity to Ladakh besides carrying the enviable tag of being Asia’s longest tunnel of nearly 15 kms in length with all modern touches of engineering. Although that tunnel has a completion schedule of 6 years, the work on it having started in October 2020, hopes are that by 2024 the tunnel would be completed in all respects. It may be recalled that Zojila otherwise has strategic importance from defence point of view looking to what is and has been going on along our borders in Ladakh, Gilgit and Baltistan regions. Connectivity through other modes like railways too having been mooted by the Government to have Leh in Ladakh linked by train from BilaspurManali track could not be far away from fructifying into a reality. However, that still being a question of the time factor, once the work started on the project, that was going to bestow an entirely new dimension on connectivity with far flung mountainous area like Ladakh region.
Sunday, January 23, 2022