India plans to build its longest road tunnel along the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan.
The Rs9,000-crore ($1.3 billion) project will connect the Gurez town in the northern part of the state of Jammu & Kashmir to the rest of the Kashmir Valley through an 18-kilometre road tunnel. The Chenani-Nashri tunnel on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway is currently India’s longest one and is expected to be completed later this year. The one connecting Gurez will be double the size of the Chenani-Nashri tunnel.
“We have submitted a proposal to the ministry of road transport and highways for construction of an 18-kilometre tunnel at Razdhan pass to connect Gurez with rest of the Valley through out the year,” Brigadier A K Das, chief engineer at the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), told the Press Trust of India. An arm of India’s defence ministry, BRO helps build and maintain roads along country’s borders.
Gurez, a picturesque valley surrounded by the snow-capped Himalayas, is a strategically important part of Kashmir, both in terms of energy projects and defence. Located 123 kilometres from Srinagar, the capital of Jammu & Kashmir, Gurez is famous for its trout fishing. It was also once a pitstop along the ancient Silk Route.
India is currently building the 330 Mega watt Kishenganga Hydroelectric Project at a cost of Rs3,300 crore in the region. The project was earlier disputed by Pakistan at the Permanent Court of Arbitration, The Hague.
The Gurez Valley is also notorious for infiltration attempts by terrorists. As a result, the Indian Army has a heavy presence in the region. Yet, it remains cut off from Kashmir during winter due to heavy snowfall. “It (the tunnel) will improve connectivity leading to development of the area,” Das said.
The BRO has submitted proposals to build three other tunnels in Kashmir Valley, totalling more than 10 kilometres.