J-K to register 5-fold increase in tourism in next 3 years, says Nitin Gadkari

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Union Minister Nitin Gadkari in Sonamarg (Photo/ANI)
Union Minister Nitin Gadkari in Sonamarg (Photo/ANI)

Sonamarg (Jammu and Kashmir) [India], September 28 (ANI): Stating that the Central government's focus is to convert Jammu and Kashmir into Switzerland, Union Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) Minister Nitin Gadkari on Tuesday assured a five-fold increase in Jammu and Kashmir's tourism in the next three years.

Besides, the Minister said there would be a 10-fold increase in hotels and restaurants, a five-fold increase in road traffic, and people from across the country as well as foreign countries will visit Jammu and Kashmir.

"An estimated 49 per cent capital investment is observed in employment when tourism grows. Now it's the responsibility of state administration to start the process for hospitality like waiters and other staff for restaurants and hotels. Skill development courses should also be started so that people in Jammu and Kashmir can get more employment," Gadkari said after inspecting the construction of prestigious Zojila, Z-morh tunnel projects here.

Addressing a press briefing at the under-construction Zojila project, Gadkari also made it clear that both Jammu and Kashmir as well as Ladakh Lieutenant Governors (LGs) are engaged in this process.

"I had a discussion with Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha last night. I also had a conversation with Ladakh Lieutenant Governor RK Mathur today. Both are already engaged in the preparation," said the Minister.

Gadkari also said that he communicated to both the Lieutenant Governors not to allow people here to randomly open hotels and 'taparis' (small makeshift shops). "I suggested them to identify proper location and help such people in openings 'taparis' as per market demand," he added.

"We will provide them such facilities in a minimum amount," said Gadkari.

The Minister further directed to make a development plan for Jammu and Kashmir.

Expressing his vision to convert Jammu and Kashmir, Switzerland, Gadkari said he has told the administration here to make proper planning with the help of good architecture.

"We want to make Switzerland (in Jammu and Kashmir). If there will be cleanliness and beauty all across Jammu and Kashmir, it will attract tourism," he noted.

Gadkari earlier reviewed and inspected the prestigious 13.5 km long Asia's longest bi-directional Zojila tunnel project and 6.5 km long Z-Morh tunnel project on the Srinagar-Leh National Highway on Tuesday here.

Zojila Tunnel, which is envisaged to provide all-weather connectivity to Union Territory (UT) of Ladakh to Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir, will be completed at the cost of Rs 4,500 crore. The ceremonial blast of Zojila tunnel was done on October 15, 2020.

Zojila tunnel is quite significant in nature and will help to keep the UT of Ladakh connected for the whole year with the rest of the country. The tunnel will also boost the tourism sector of both the Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir UTs and keep the hassle-free movement of the armed forces during any weather conditions.

Zojila tunnel is of a significant importance with regard to national security and development to both UTs as it will provide round the year connectivity to Ladakh region- Kargil and Leh.

The project site of Zojila tunnel is located at the existing highway (NH-01) starting from Sonamarg (UT of J&K) and ending at Minamarg (UT of Ladakh) at an elevation ranging from 2,700 m to 3,300 m, thus making the Zojila Tunnel (13.2 km) the longest tunnel at this elevation in Asia region.

The present site location falls into seismic zone IV and all precautionary measures have been provisioned to safeguard the structures provisioned in the project.

Presently, the road from Srinagar to Leh is not open all year round as it is not suitable for vehicular movement. Connectivity is limited to only five months in a year owing to extreme snowfall during winters.

The existing Srinagar-Ladakh highway is closed from mid-November to April, literally cutting off this entire region from the rest of the world.

This is posing a big hurdle for the movement of the Army and military vehicles.

The alternative routes are long-winding and time-consuming, resulting in huge expenditures. Moreover, these alternative routes are closer to the lndo-China and lndo-Pakistan borders.

Therefore a strategic alternative was the need of the hour. This is where the Zojila tunnel project comes in.

Once the tunnel is completed, travel between Srinagar and Ladakh throughout the year, will become a reality.

While the distance will be reduced (from Baltal to Minamarg) from 40 km to 13 km, travel time too will be reduced by 1.5 hours between the two Union Territories.

The journey will be less strenuous as the roads will be evenly paved. The project will lead to the integrated development of both the Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh regions, at maximum speed.

However, the Z-Morh tunnel will facilitate locals and tourists to access Sonamarg during the winter season as well and will facilitate a socio-economic boost to the Jammu and Kashmir in general and locals in particular. The tunnel project is being executed on DBFOT mode with an approximate cost of Rs 2,378 crore.

Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting and Youth Affairs and Sports, Anurag Singh Thakur on Monday also inspected Zojila and Z-Morh tunnel projects. (ANI)

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