Hundreds of workers are engaged in an ambitious project to drill tunnels and build bridges to connect the Kashmir Valley with Ladakh, a cold desert region isolated half the year due to snowfall.
The tunnel project is considered critically important for Ladakh by Indian military planners. According to experts, it will provide the military with logistical flexibility as well as mobility.
Ladakh, which is strategically vital, shares de facto borders with Pakistan and China and is currently reliant on aviation supplies for around six months of the year.
India's road transport and highways minister, Nitin Gadkari, said during a visit to the site on September 28 that he expects the work will be completed before the 2024 general election.
The project's last tunnel, about 14 kilometres (9 miles) long, will bypass the difficult Zojila pass and connect Sonamarg and Ladakh.
With an elevation of 11,500 feet, officials claim, the project's last tunnel will be India's longest and highest tunnel (3,485 meters).
Sonamarg marks the end of the conifer-clad mountains before entering Ladakh over the rugged Zojila mountain pass.
According to officials, the first of four, a 6.5-kilometer (4-mile) tunnel, is now complete and will make Sonamarg accessible throughout the winter months for the first time.
On September 28, 2021, land movers clear rocks and stones at the entrance of the Nilgrar Tunnel in the Baltal district northeast of Srinagar.