Rohtang tunnel hits roadblock as construction material falls short

  • Gaurav Bisht, Hindustan Times, Shimla
  • Updated: May 07, 2016 00:06 IST

The behind-schedule strategic Rohtang tunnel project has hit another roadblock — shortage of construction material.

A ban on environmental clearances to mining has led to this situation at the north portal of the tunnel. Two years ago, Border Roads Organisation (BRO) had sought 5 hectares for mining the rocks required to crush into sand and grit; but the file has been shuttling between the Centre and the state government since. The BRO, which works under Defence Ministry, had sought this land at Chatru, 5 kilometres ahead of Sisu in Lahaul-Spiti district, but failed to get it because of local laws that allow allotment only to tribes.

In August 2014, BRO had approached the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) and the state government for land. The ministry asked the state to add land to forest in lieu of land for quarrying. The state government had instead offered forestland to the Centre in exchange. The Centre wanted revenue land. “The delay in handing over the land for quarrying has hit the progress of the tunnel project,” a BRO official said on the condition of anonymity. “Rocks and debris from excavation make inferior concrete,” he said.

The tunnelling can be done for only six months, since the Rohtang Pass remains snow-bound in winter, cutting off the tribal Lahaul-Spiti valley and the strategic Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir. The tunnel is being built in collaboration with Strabag-Afcons, a joint venture of India’s Afcons Infrastructure and Austria’s Strabag SE. Congress president Sonia Gandhi had unveiled the foundation stone of this engineering marvel on June 28, 2010.


Spot: Under 13,044-foot-high Rohtang Pass

Total length: 8.8 km

Shape: horse shoe

Stretch cut through: 6 km (3 km each from the north and sought portals)

World’s longest tunnel at 3,000-metre altitude

Conceived in 1998

Announced on June 3, 2000, by then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee

May 6, 2002: Work entrusted to Border Roads Organisation

May 23, 2002: Work inaugurated by PM Vajpayee

Vehicle speed designed for: 80km/h (50mph)

Distance it will save: 60 km between Manali and Keylong (Lahaul-Spiti)


Water ingress from the Seri Nullah

Ban on rock mining

Land required for quarrying but it cannot be allotted outside tribes


2015: 51 metres (from the south portal)

2016: 700 metres (through hard rock)

Original deadline: February 2015

Projected delay: Another three years


2010 (original): `1,700 crore

2015: 2,000 cr

2019 (projected): 4,000 cr

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