Manali: Having run into several delays and cost overruns, the strategically important 8.8 Km long Rohtang Tunnel being constructed to provide year round connectivity to Lahaul Valley and Ladhak, would only be ready by September 2020, army engineers working on the project here disclosed.
KP Purushothaman, chief engineer of the project said, “Rohtang tunnel is likely to be completed by September 2020”
“One of the biggest challenges which we are facing inside the tunnel is an underground stream that the construction team encountered during the excavation in the year 2012. Earlier the impact area of the Seri stream,” he said, “was 562 meters but had now been reduced to just 30 meters. Very soon we will manage to control the entire flow and all the seepage in the tunnel.”
The army engineer said that considering the current pace of work, all civil engineering work is likely to be completed by December 2019 and all electrical, as well as ventilation works, would be completed by next year to make the tunnel operational by September 2020.
The project is now estimated to cost about Rs 2700 crores. Boring a tunnel at 3,000 metres above the sea level in the Eastern Pir Panjal ranges on the Leh-Manali Highway has been a challenging engineering project for the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), a wing of the Defence Ministry, which is constructing the tunnel in collaboration with AFCONS, a joint venture with Strabag AG.
Rohtang tunnel will reduce the road distance between Manali and Keylong by nearly 46 km and save up to 5 hours of journey time. The tunnel will have a capacity to ply 3,000 vehicles per day under any weather condition.
He disclosed both ends of the Rohtang Tunnel, which can be accessed after negotiating 20 landslide and snow avalanche zones, is located at altitudes ranging above 3,000 metres and lies beneath the snow-covered Rohtang Pass, whose 70% of the top remains under snow even during summer season.
Purushothaman said the Rohtang Pass highway tunnel would provide ample room for two-way traffic and is designed to cater to a maximum vehicular speed of 80 km per hour. Once completed, it will prove a boon for over 20,000 people in the cold deserts of Lahaul Valley, who remain cut off from rest of the nation in winter season due to the closure of the Rohtang Pass, he added.
Rohtang tunnel is a key project for Defense Ministry as it wants to make the entire 475 Km Manali-Keylong-Leh highway ready at the earliest for use round the year by the armed forces to reach forward areas in Ladakh bordering Pakistan and China.
Foundation stone of the project, estimated at Rs 1,495 core, was laid on June 28, 2010 by UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi in Solang Valley. Where initially the project was targeted to completed by February 2015, the deadline was first extended for 2017 and then for 15th August, 2019.
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.