IL&FS crisis deals fresh blow to Ladakh road link

As of now there has been no work on the ground at Zojila tunnel while progress at Z-Morh is about 37%.


NEW DELHI: IL&FS crisis has put an endless wait for the all-weather connectivity to Ladakh and is pushing up the cost by over 20% or around Rs 1,400 crores to over Rs 8,200 crores. 

With the road transport and highways ministry ousting the troubled concessionaire for the strategic projects — Zojila Pass and Z-Morh tunnels — it could take another six-seven years for the 20.5-km tunnels on NH-1A, connecting Srinagar with Leh, to be completed. 

In January 2018, the cabinet had approved the Zojila tunnel project at Rs 6,800 crore. The state-owned National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL), which is responsible for building highways in hill states and north-east, had invited fresh bids after cancelling the contracts with IL&FS. Now since the cost has gone up, the agency needs to get fresh Cabinet nod. 

So far, Z-Morh tunnel is only 37% complete, while Zojila Pass is yet to see any action on ground. This is despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself laying the foundation stone for Zojila tunnel in May 2018. Going by the current calendar, the projects will only be ready around 2025 — two decades after they were conceptualised. 

Both the projects were bagged by IL&FS Transportation Network Ltd, a subsidiary of the beleaguered infrastructure major IL&FS. NHIDCL terminated the contracts earlier this year. While the 6.5 km Z-Morh project was bagged by a consortium of ITNL and Soma Isolux, the 14-km Zojila tunnel had gone to ITNL. 

Sources said the revised estimate includes the escalation in labour cost, price of raw materials and a new component of “fire safety rating” which has been incorporated in the project. An official said that this additional feature will allow transportation of oil and gas tankers to use the tunnel. This is essential since the tunnel has been planned to provide round-the-year connectivity to transport man and materials. This component will require about Rs 300 crores of expenditure. 

As of now there has been no work on the ground at Zojila tunnel while the physical progress at Z-Morh is about 37%. Officials said in the case of Z-Morh, NHIDCL have received four bids and it will soon award the work. It will take around four years to complete the remaining works. 

Completing the two projects is crucial to push development in the recently created Union territory of Ladakh. The region remains cut off for nearly six months by land route due to heavy snow. 

Source: Economic Times