Sonia Gandhi lays foundation stone for Rohtang Tunnel
New Delhi, June 28, 2010
National Advisory Council (NAC) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi laid the foundation stone in Manali today for the strategic 8.8 km long Rohtang Tunnel to be built at an altitude of over 3000 metres in the Pir Panjal range for an all-weather road link across the snow-capped Rohtang Pass (3978 m).
An official press release said the tunnel would provide unhindered road access to the remote regions of Lahaul-Spiti and Pangi Valley throughout the year, besides reducing the road distance by nearly 48 kms, a travel time of about four hours.
A brief multi-faith ceremony was held at the South Portal, 15 km from Manali, where the drilling work on the tunnel commenced today.
Union Defence Minister A K Antony, Union Steel Minister Vir Bhadra Singh and Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal were amongst those present on the occasion.
Speaking at a public rally near Manali, Ms Gandhi recalled that the project was the dream of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and expressed happiness that it was finally on its way to being realised.
The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is expected to complete the project by February 2015 at an outlay of Rs 1495 crore.
The horse-shore shaped tunnel will be a two-way lane in a single tube 11.25 m wide.
According to the release, the tunnel will give a boost to tourism in the region, facilitate better access for medical treatment and provide more avenues of employment to the youth,
Simultaneously, drilling work also commenced at the northern portal (exit point), joining the Manali-Sarchu road, over Chandra river. One of the unique features of the tunnel being constructed at the rarefied altitudes includes incorporation of semi-transverse ventilation system, where large fans would separately circulate air, in and out throughout the tunnel length and thus reduce vehicular fumes.
The tunnel is being constructed under the aegis of BRO by Strabag-Afcons, a joint venture between India’s Afcons Infrastructure Ltd and Strabag SE of Austria, the world’s fourth largest construction company.
The release said the Rohtang tunnel might not be enough to make the Manali-Keylong-Leh highway an all-weather road due to two other major snow-bound passes on the way – Baralacha La and Thaglang La. To overcome this, the project also envisages construction of 292 Kms long all-weather road, Nimu-Padam-Darcha via Shinkunla Pass, traversing the remote Zanskar region of Jammu and Kashmir, at an additional estimated cost of Rs 286 crore.