A hill station, more enchanting than the world-famous Davos in Switzerland, is being planned in the picturesque landscape between the 18-km stretch of Zojila tunnel in Ladakh and Z-Morh tunnel in Jammu & Kashmir, Union minister Nitin Gadkari said. A meeting with Lieutenant Governors of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir is scheduled next week in this connection.
"We are planning to make a hill city, more attractive than Davos on the picturesque high-altitude 18 km terrain between Zojila tunnel and Z-Morh tunnel…The world-class project will change the dynamics of both Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir territories and create huge employment," Road Transport, Highways and MSME Minister Gadkari told PTI. Davos, a town in the Swiss Alps is a popular ski resort and hosts the annual World Economic Forum meeting.
Gadkari said a meeting is scheduled with the Lieutenant Governors of Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir union territories for taking land as equity. "A nominal rupee one lease rent may be there and they will give land as equity," the minister said adding that a beautiful hill station could easily come up in the area which witnesses high snowfall. Both Leh-Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir governments will be partners and stakeholders in the project, he said.
Zojila Pass is situated at an altitude of 11,578 feet on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National Highway and remains closed during winters due to heavy snowfall. Gadkari in October this year launched the construction work on Zojila tunnel and exuded confidence that the strategic project which will provide all-year connectivity between Srinagar valley and Leh and will be completed ahead of schedule before the next Lok Sabha elections," the Road Transport, Highways and MSME Minister said.
The project has a completion schedule of six years. Once completed, the tunnel, projected as Asia's longest, would reduce the travel time from 3 hours to 15 minutes with avalanche-free travel on the Srinagar-Leh section of NH1.
The minister said his ministry could save exchequer's Rs 5,000 crore by cutting the cost of the project which had escalated to Rs 11,000 crore. About the hill station project, the minister said: "We will develop world-class infrastructure there including road, transport, water, communication. We develop and sell the plots by making plans of hotels, restaurants, resorts, convention centres, residential accommodation. This in turn could fetch rich dividends." He said the hill station could be a huge success story with public-private investment and will create a large number of jobs changing the economy of the place as it has full potential to attract huge number of tourists including the foreigners.
The design and planning of the hill station will be finalised with a Swiss architect," he said. He exuded confidence that the project would be profitable venture as it would lead to growth in traffic for the tunnel and would fetch more toll.
The government in January this year had awarded the Jammu and Kashmir's crucial Z-Morh Tunnel project, languishing for long after it was abandoned, to APCO Amarnathji Tunnelway, which will be built at a cost of Rs 2,379 crore. The Z-Morh Tunnel along with the Zojila tunnel are designed to provide all-weather road connectivity to Jammu and Kashmir parts which remain closed during the winters due to heavy snowfall. The project is likely to be completed by 2023.