MEIL Workforce Brave Frigid Temperatures

Amidst cold and missing the warmth of family, winter warriors build the ‘connect’ between Sonmarg & Ladakh to break their 6-month isolation from the rest of the world

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SONMARG, India, Dec. 14, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — At more than 11,000 feet above mean sea level in the young snow-capped Himalayan mountains, the ‘Water Towers’ of India, the workforce of Megha Engineering & Infrastructure Limited (MEIL) is constructing Asia’s longest bi-directional Zojila Tunnel.

Above: A view of the thigh-high snow at the entrance of the Zojila Tunnel on Wednesday. Below: A blower clearing the snow at the Zojila Tunnel on Wednesday.

In the harsh winter with heavy snowfall and the danger of avalanches, the regions get cut off from the rest of the world without any communication. During October to March, the peak winter season, people residing in these Himalayan ranges migrate to other places as it is impossible to sustain without minimum basic amenities like water, transport, power and other communication.

Even in this deserted white winter wonderland, where temperatures drop below minus Degrees Celcius, MEILians are working 24×7 under neon lights, protective helmets, and warm winter gear. It is like a show in the snow, where each MEILian is an artist. For several months the workforce stays far from their families, dedicating themselves to the ‘Mission Connecting Somarg-Ladakh round-the-clock.’

With the temperatures dropping to -18 Degrees Celsius, the present wind speeds are touching 6-7 km per hour, which usually go up to 40 km/hr during peak winter, where there is a risk of avalanches. Surrounded by 8-9 avalanche zones, the 2,000-plus MEIL workforce daily march like soldiers in these high-risk, bone-chilling volatile weather conditions. Snowstorms are another hindrance to work. Sometimes snow can accumulate up to 6 feet in height. Presently, the snow received in the second week of December is thigh-high. Machines such as snow blowers running on anti-freeze diesel clear the route to the tunnel so men and machinery can easily pass. 

This 13.145-km-long highest motorable road tunnel in the continent is located in the beautiful maze of steep mountains in Jammu & Kashmir. The people of Ladakh will no longer have outward migration or live in isolation during the harsh and long winter months. With the tunnel, these ‘isolated people’ will soon have year-long access and safe passage to Jammu and Srinagar.

In this harsh climate with limited food supplies, MEIL’s winter warriors are presently carrying tunnelling, excavation, gantry, lining, and gabion works. In the 13.145-km-long main tunnel, on average, they are tunnelling 10 to 12 metres from both ends (east and west portal) every day, which is not easy in normal conditions. Presently, excavation of the last cut and cover tunnel is ongoing. Out of the eight cut and cover tunnels, seven have been completed. In the Nilgrar tunnels 1 & 2, gantry and lining works are underway. Water temperatures are being raised to 80 degrees Celsius to add in the concrete mix while sand & aggregates are being stored in huge sheds.

Harpal Singh, Project head at ZojilaTunnel, said, “We’re receiving snowfall regularly. The day temperatures are also sub-zero, but in November, MEILians achieved record concrete lining progress of 750-m in the Nilgrar tunnels despite the harsh weather. Gabion works to protect the roads from snow/avalanches are also in progress. As MEILians, we take immense pride in building the Zojila Tunnel, which is a lifeline for the people and will boost the economy of Ladakh.”

The invisible workforce of the MEILians are using engineering excellence to achieve connectivity in the impenetrable last frontier. MEIL salutes these men for their dedication.

About the MEIL

The MEIL, a leading infrastructure company in India, is a diverse industrial conglomerate established in 1989. It is a fast-growing global scale company that has completed many classic landmark projects featuring the changes of the times and commemorating economic and cultural development. It has also built many major infrastructure projects across the globe to improve people’s livelihoods. MEIL executes infrastructure projects in more than 75% of Indian states. Some of these projects are located in challenging terrains like the Himalayas (Lambadug Hydro Electric Project, Himachal Pradesh), torrential rainfall-affected areas (Assam Renewal Project, Assam), arid regions (drinking water projects in Rajasthan), and other regions with socio-political tensions. Despite such uncertainties, MEIL has been handling projects smoothly because of the strength of its efficient workforce.


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