Strategic Importance Apart, Zoji La Tunnel Can Stop Frequent Tragedies on The Road


by Faiqa Masoodi

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SRINAGAR: In the serene backdrop of Kulan Gund, a day meant for joyous Eid celebrations turned tragic when a road accident at Pani Matha, Zojila, claimed the lives of three family members and left three others injured. This incident is the latest in a series of accidents that underscore the treacherous nature of the Zoji La Pass, one of the most dangerous roads on earth.

The accident occurred when a private Alto car (registration number JK01AH/8487), travelling from Matayan Drass to Kulan, was struck by a falling brick stone from a nearby hill. The impact was devastating, killing Ghulam Mohiuddin Sheikh (40), his wife Syeda Begam (38), and their son Zeeshan Mohiuddin Sheikh (14) on the spot.

The surviving passengers, including the driver Abdul Majeed Bhat, Sahil Ahmad Bhat, and Rabia Mahduddin, were rushed to Primary Health Centre (PHC) Sonmarg and later to SKIMS Soura for further treatment. Despite the swift emergency response, one of the injured succumbed to their injuries at the hospital, casting a pall of grief over the entire Kulan Gund area. The family was on their way from Matayan Drass (Kargil) to Kulan (Kangan) to celebrate Eid. They are a section of the people who live in two places for climatic reasons.

The Zoji La Pass, connecting Kashmir with Ladakh, has a notorious reputation for frequent and often fatal road accidents. Just last year, twelve fatalities were recorded, highlighting the urgent need for enhanced safety measures on this perilous route. These included a group of tourists from Kerala of which six were killed.

On June 10, another tragic accident near Ranga Morh saw a vehicle skid off the road and plunge down a steep slope, resulting in one death and five injuries. The vehicle, bearing registration number PB01A/4898, lost control at a sharp turn, killing Tarseem Lal from Gurdaspur, Punjab, and injuring the other passengers.

O’ Zoji La

These continuous incidents have intensified the call for the completion of the Zojila tunnel, a project aimed at bypassing the treacherous pass. Initially conceived in 2005, construction only began in October 2020.

The tunnel, being constructed by Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Ltd at an estimated cost of Rs 4,600 crore, promises to provide year-round access to Ladakh, reducing travel time from four hours to just 15 minutes. Despite its critical importance, the project’s completion deadline has been pushed from December 2026 to December 2027.

The tunnel is part of a broader initiative by the government to construct 41 significant tunnels in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, ensuring strategic mobility and safe travel.

Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, currently in Srinagar, has convened a high-level meeting on June 17 to review various national and strategic projects, including the Zojila tunnel. The meeting will also address the condition of the Srinagar-Jammu highway, another crucial route that frequently faces closures due to landslides, particularly during the rainy season.

As the Amarnath Yatra approaches, coinciding with the monsoon season, ensuring safe and smooth passage for pilgrims on these hazardous roads is of paramount concern. The tragic accidents at Zoji La Pass are a grim reminder of the pressing need to expedite the Zojila tunnel project and enhance road safety measures to prevent further loss of lives.


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