Rohtang Tunnel to open by September-end
More than 700 men are working in shifts to complete the tunnel
Shimla The 8.8-km strategic Rohtang Tunnel, being built at 3,000metre above sea level between Manali and Leh, will be opened for traffic by September-end. The ₹3,200-crore tunnel will shorten the 474-km distance between Manali and Leh by 46km, which means the eight-hour journey will be cut by two-and-a-half hours.
The tunnel is also called Atal Tunnel, as the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had announced the project on June 3, 2000. The work was entrusted to the Border Roads Organisation (BRO). After this announcement, there was a lull with the then United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi laying the foundation stone of the project on June 28, 2010.
The project has faced geological challenges which have pushed the deadline, since digging started in 2011.The project was to be completed in February 2015, but water ingress from Seri Nullah, ban on rock mining and delay in allotment of land needed for quarrying, and loose rock strata in the middle caused the slow progress.
More than 700 men are working in shifts to complete the tunnel. When the pandemic-enforced lockdown was imposed, proactive measures were taken to recommence work in active coordination with the state government.
“When the lockdown was imposed, labourers from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh working on the tunnel migrated, causing a major labour problem. Later, we arranged labour from different parts of the state,” said chief engineer Rohtang Tunnel project KP Purushothaman. He added, “Almost all major civil and engineering works have been completed and the remaining will be completed before September 20.”
Defence minister Rajnath Singh was to inspect the work at the tunnel last month, but due to the stand-off between India and Chinese troops, this trip was cancelled. Rajnath is likely to visit Rohtang tunnel in August-end.
“The government will invite PM Narendra Modi to inaugurate the tunnel, which is a boon for people living in the inhospitable terrain in Lahual and Spiti,” said technical education and tribal affairs minister Dr Ram Lal Markanda.
Speed limits in the tunnel will be 80km per hour. The tunnel will accelerate troop mobility to strategic frontiers in Jammu and Kashmir, besides providing a road link to Lahaul and Spiti in the winters. The tunnel has the capacity to ply 3,000 vehicles per day under any weather condition. The cost of the project has escalated from ₹1,700 crore in 2010 to almost its double to ₹3,200 crore by September-end 202