Manali: Construction work on the strategically important Rohtang tunnel , a 1,495-crore ($290 million) project near Manali in Himachal Pradesh came to a partial halt after a portion of the tunnel collapsed , official sources disclosed on Saturday. No loss of life has been reported.
According to the sources, a small portion of the tunnel towards the north portal got damaged on Thursday. Since then, excavation work has been stopped, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) let Hill Post know, adding that work would continue in due course.
The north portal lies near Sissu towards Lahaul and Spiti, while the south one is towards Dhundi near Manali.
As per the information available, around 30 metres of the tunnel rooftop broke down. At the time of the incident, more than 12 employees were at work in the tunnel. “As a precautionary measure, digging work has been temporarily stopped,” disclosed an official who did not wish to be named.
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 8.8-km Rohtang tunnel that lies beneath the 3,978-metre Rohtang Pass near Manali.
It is an engineering marvel and a strategic project, and will ensure all-weather connectivity to Keylong in Lahaul and Spiti district.
The work is being undertaken by the BRO in collaboration with Strabag-Afcons, a joint venture between India’s Afcons Infrastructure and Strabag SE of Austria.
Over 350 BRO personnel and 24 experts from Germany and Austria have been working round the clock on both sides of the tunnel to meet the February 2015 deadline.
Of the 8.8-km horseshoe-shaped tunnel, over four km has been excavated since work began in June 2010.
The Rohtang tunnel is located at altitudes ranging between 3,053 m and 3,080 m. About 70 percent of the Rohtang Pass top remains under snow, even during peak summer.
Once ready, the tunnel will be a boon for the cold deserts of Lahaul Valley, where over 20,000 people remain cut off from the rest of the country in winters owing to the closure of the Rohtang Pass.
The tunnel is projected to cost 1,495-crore ($290 million).
Sanjay Dutta, an engineer by qualification but is a journalist by choice.
He has worked for the premier new agency Press Trust of India and leading English daily Indian Express.
With more than a decade of experience, he has been highlighting issues related to environment, tourism and other aspects affecting mountain ecology.
Sanjay Dutta lives in a village close to Manali in Kullu valley of Himachal.