The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on Wednesday approved a Rs 6,809-crore tunnel project in Jammu and Kashmir that will connect Srinagar, Kargil and Leh during winters. Leh loses access to rest of the state during winters as the Zojila Pass on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh National Highway is shut down from December to April because of snowfall and avalanches.

The project will bring “all-round economic and socio-cultural integration of these regions”, the government said in a release. It has “strategic and socio-economic importance” and will aid the development of economically backward districts, the release said.

The proposed tunnel will have two 14.15-km lanes, with a parallel escape tunnel, and will be built through the engineering, procurement and construction mode in seven years, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways said.

The project will be implemented by the ministry through the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited. Highway construction company IL&FS Transportation had won the bid for the project in July 2017.