Himachal Police to man Atal Tunnel at Rohtang as BRO heads for Shinku La
A year after Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened the strategic 9.02-km Atal Tunnel at Rohtang Pass, the defence ministry’s Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has asked the Himachal Pradesh government to take over its security as it prepares to move ahead to bore another tunnel at a height of 16,580 feet at Shinku La.
The BRO has written to the government to upgrade security of the all-weather tunnel located at a height of 10,171 feet, connecting Manali to Lahaul-Spiti valley. Earlier, the valley would be cut off for six winter months every year due to heavy snowfall at Rohtang.
The state government has set up a high-level committee, comprising additional director general of police, State Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau, SP Singh, Atal Tunnel chief engineer VK Singh, Lahaul and Spiti deputy commissioner Neeraj Kumar, Kullu DC Ashutosh Garg, inspector general of police, intelligence, Daljeet Singh Thakur and State Disaster Management Committee director Sudesh Mokta to prepare a comprehensive plan for the security of the tunnel.
“The plan, to be submitted within two months, will be designed to meet any exigency, whether blast, earthquake, fire or avalanche,” said a member of the committee, requesting anonymity.
In 2020, state director general of police Sanjay Kundu had constituted a panel that had visited Jammu and Kashmir’s Jawahar Tunnel in Banihal and the Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Tunnel at Chenani-Nashri to study the security set-up adopted by J&K Police.
The committee proposed multipurpose barriers at Solang, 14 km down the South Portal at Dhundhi, and at Telling near the North Portal in Sissu.
Tunnel maintenance stays with BRO
The BRO will, however, continue to maintain tunnel, while the security will be with Himachal Pradesh Police.
The BRO will be digging a 4.25-km tunnel 3km before Shinku La between Lahaul valley and Ladakh’s Zanskar valley. Shinku La is 40km from Darcha, a village in Himachal’s Lahaul on the Manali-Leh highway.
The BRO is building the Darcha-Shinku La-Padum-Nimu road as an alternative to connect Ladakh with Himachal Pradesh. This will be the third highway connecting Ladakh with the mainland after the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh and the Manali-Sarchu-Leh highways.
The Manali-Padum-Nimu road or Darcha-Padum-Nimu road will become all-weather after the completion of the Shinku La tunnel. This will be the safest and shortest road to reach Leh. The Darcha-Padum-Nimu road has only one pass, Shinku La.
Shinku La tunnel project report by Dec-end
The detailed project report for the tunnel will be completed next month-end. The Rail India Technical and Economic Service Limited (RITES), that provides consultancy and technical services in infrastructure and transport projects across the country, has already conducted the feasibility survey.
Atal Tunnel chief engineer VK Singh said that the tender for the construction of the Shinku La tunnel will be floated in April. “We want to execute the work on the tunnel as soon as possible,” he said.
With China flexing its military might along Indian borders, the defence ministry is concentrating more on this new road as it will facilitate military movement even in winter. Otherwise, both Manali-Leh and Srinagar-Leh highways get blocked following heavy snowfall for six months a year. The defence ministry had earlier planned a 13.5-km tunnel under Shinku La, but the proposal was rejected in May. Instead, it gave a nod to the 4.25-km tunnel near Shinku La.