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In Pictures: India’s extraordinary tunnel project in Kashmir




Indian workers are toiling away to complete four tunnels connecting the Kashmir valley to Ladakh, a contested border region between India and China.

Hundreds of people are working on an ambitious project to drill tunnels and construct bridges connecting the picturesque Kashmir Valley with the cold and rugged terrains of Ladakh, a region that remains isolated for every six months due to massive snowfall.

A strategically important place, Ladakh shares de facto borders with Pakistan and China. The region generally depends on air supplies for half the year.

Kashmiri worker Tariq Ahmed Lone, wearing blue helmet, stands on a crane along with other worker employed by the Megha Engineering And Infrastructures Limited (MEIL) works inside the Nilgrar Tunnel in Baltal area northeast of Srinagar, Kashmir, Tuesday, September 28, 2021. (AP)

Four tunnels are projected to connect these two regions and the first one, 6.5-kilometer long, is already complete and will make the resort town of Sonamarg accessible during the winter months for the first time.

A worker wearing face mask and helmet is seen inside the Nilgrar tunnel in Baltal area Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021. (AP)

Sonamarg marks the end of conifer-clad mountains before Ladakh begins across the rocky Zojila mountain pass.

A lone truck travels on the Zojila Pass, northeast of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Monday, Sept. 27, 2021. (AP)

The last tunnel of the $932 million project, about 14-kilometers-long, will bypass the challenging Zojila pass and connect Sonamarg with Ladakh.

A man works on the construction of a bridge which will connect Sonamarg to Nilgrar Tunnel in Baltal area, northeast of Srinagar, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021. (AP)

After finishing, it will be the longest and highest tunnel at 3,485 meters in India.

Vehicles run through the Zojila Pass, northeast of Srinagar, Monday, September 27, 2021. (AP)

“It’s not like any other construction work. It’s great learning,” said one of the workers, Tariq Ahmed Lone, as he helped at a drilling machine.

The Indian and Chinese army have been confronted in the Karakoram mountains in Ladakh for over 16 months along their de facto border, called the Line of Actual Control.

Mohammad Saleem, a drilling machine operator is covered with dust as he poses for picture at the entrance of Nilgrar Tunnel, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021. (AP)

Both countries have stationed tens of thousands of soldiers there, backed by artillery, tanks and fighter jets.

According to Indian military planners, the tunnel project is extremely important for Ladakh thanks to providing logistics flexibility to the military and giving it operational and strategic mobility.

This photograph provided by the Indian Army, according to them shows Chinese troops dismantling their bunkers at Pangong Tso region, in Ladakh along the India-China border on Monday, Feb.15, 2021. (AP)

Politicians also see an opportunity in the project.

The Zojila part of the tunnel is to be functional in 2026, but India’s road transport and highways minister, Nitin Gadkari, said on a visit to the project site on Tuesday that he hopes the work will be finished before a 2024 general election.

Indian Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, center, accompanied with his wife in blue saree, looks at the under construction Zojila tunnel in Baltaal, northeast of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021. The tunnel will connect Srinagar to the Ladakh region in a stretch that otherwise remains closed during the winter months because of snow. (AP)

“It’s a challenge I know, but I’m confident they can do it on time,” Gadkari said. “Obviously, we would want it to be finished before the elections.”


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MPS still under Home Minister: PO




President’s Office on Tuesday stated that though Maldives Police Service (MPS) is now operating as an independent entity, the Home Minister is still the responsible figure for the agency.

Following the ratification and implementing of MPS Act, MPS would function as an independent entity, with various internal governing bodies. The Home Minister will be responsible for overseeing the body but will have no control over day to day operations.

Confusion reigned supreme following a letter sent by President’s Office to the Home Affairs, stating that MPS would function as an independent entity effective from March 27, 2021. The letter also stated the Ministry’s functions and roles following this decision.

Clause 242 of the Constitution mandates that all government and government associated agencies be overseen by a Minister.

The statement issued by President’s Office said that Home Minister Sheikh Imran would still oversee the agency.

In response to the change, Minister Imran tweeted that ‘challenges’ were natural and expected. He added that success was in perseverance.

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Tourism Ministry sets three-year period for resorts to open




Minister of Tourism Dr Abdullah Mausoom has revealed that the Ministry intends to automatically revoke the islands leased for resort development, if the developers fail to open the property within a three-year period.

Speaking to local newspaper, Mihaaru, the Minister revealed that this was already in the plans and a new agreement will be signed based on this principle.

Statistics by Tourism Ministry in 2020, show that over 50 resorts were still under development, with parties filing to extend the permits for 21 islands. Some of the leased islands have been listed as under development for over 10 years.

This, he said, was being implemented to urge developers to finish developing the property and begin operations. Minister Mausoom noted that most citizens living close to islands under development had raised their concerns over delays.

The Minister had previously said that Tourism sustained severe losses due to the pandemic. While the sector aims to bring in 1.3 million tourists, there are several challenges including a new mutation of the delta strain detected in the UK and limitations of the airport to cater for arrivals.

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U23 national team departs for Bahrain




The under 23 national football team has departed to Bahrain for training ahead of AFC Asian Cup qualifiers.

The qualifiers will be held in Uzbekistan from the 27th to the 31st of this month.

The team is accompanied by Assistant Coaches Sabah Mohamed and Mohamed Shahid. They will play two practice matches in Bahrain before heading to straight to qualifiers in Uzbekistan. The team had also carried out successful training camps in the atolls.

Maldives will face off against Iraq on 27th October, against Bahrain on 29th October, and Afghanistan on 31st October.

Competing nations are divided into 11 groups. First place winners will go into the Asian Cup. Additionally, four top-performing teams from the second placed nations will proceed to the Cup.

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