Rohtang tunnel work likely to start next month


Shimla : Work on the multi-million-rupee Rohtang tunnel project may start next month, aiming to provide an all-weather alternative road connectivity to Ladakh region in Jammu and Kashmir, besides Himachal Pradesh’s tribal Lahaul and Spiti district, an official said here Thursday.

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“By next month, the sanction to start the excavation work for the strategic Rohtang tunnel is likely to be received from the central government,” Border Roads Organisation (BRO) chief engineer (Project Deepak) I.R. Mathur told IANS.

The BRO, a wing of the central government that constructs and maintains crucial road links along the international borders, has been tasked with the construction of the Rohtang tunnel too.

“The government has earmarked Rs.400 crore for the project for this financial year. An official intimation in this regard has been received by the BRO,” Mathur said.

Last year the central government allocated Rs.200 crore for the project, but the amount lapsed as the government had not granted permission to start the tunnel construction.

The nine-km-long tunnel, foundation of which was laid by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2002, will reduce the distance between Manali and Leh in Jammu and Kashmir by 40 km, which is otherwise 475 km.

At present, due to heavy snowfall at the Rohtang Pass (13,050 feet), the road connectivity for Lahaul and Spiti and Leh from Himachal Pradesh remains disrupted for more than four months during winter.

The tunnel, some 300 km from here in Kullu district, will be burrowed below the Rohtang Pass so that it avoids the heavy snow.

“Once the work begins, the tunnel needs minimum five years to get completed. Since all topographical surveys have been completed, now only green signal from the government is awaited,” Mathur added.

Himachal’s PWD Minister Gulab Singh Thakur said the state government attaches great importance to the Rohtang tunnel project.

“The project is strategically important to the defence forces as well as to boost economic development in the Lahaul-Spiti region. We have been in regular touch with the BRO to see that the project starts as early as possible,” he said.

Latest estimates show the tunnel, billed as the longest highway tunnel so far in the country, needs Rs.1,700 crore to get completed.

“The horse-shoe shaped tunnel would cost approximately Rs.1,700 crore. Its construction would be a Herculean task as the temperature at the site varies from 25 to 30 degrees Celsius during May-June and minus 20 to minus 2 degrees Celsius during December-January. The area sees heavy snow and high velocity winds,” Mathur said.

The Manali-Leh highway winds its way through the Rohtang Pass, Baralacha Pass (16,020 ft), Lachlungla Pass (16,620 ft) and Tanglangla (17,480 ft).

The highway plays an important role in the movement of the armed forces to the forward areas in Ladakh.