Tunnel to breathe life into the dead


Prime VIP
Sonia to lay stone of world’s longest high-altitude Rohtang tunnel today

Manali, June 27

Rohtang, meaning “heap of dead bodies” in Persian, aptly portrays the ruthless and rugged living conditions that the people of this area have learnt to live with. But a dream conceived by Rajiv Gandhi 27 years ago will start a change for the better when UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Monday lays the foundation stone of the world’s longest high altitude Rohtang tunnel near here.

It will provide smooth two-way movement for vehicles upto a maximum speed of 80 km per hour. “The tunnel will provide movement for 3,000 vehicles to and fro daily with provision for semi-transverse ventilation system,” said PK Mahajan, Chief Engineer of Project Rohtang. All conditions inside the tunnel -- including light, pollution and fire hydrants -- will be monitored automatically from outside with closed circuit cameras all along providing a minute-to-minute inside picture.

Fresh air will be pushed into the tunnel while the exhausted gases will be pumped out to keep conditions under control. “In case of a fire hazard, it will be controlled within 90 seconds and would not be allowed to spread beyond 200 metres, ensuring complete safety with the use of system of dampers,” explained Mahajan.

The dream project to be built by the Border Road Organisation (BRO) at a cost of Rs 1,495 crore is likely to be completed by 2015. Strategically, it will be an important milestone enabling an all-weather road link across the captivating Rohtang Pass (13,044 feet) to Leh and the border areas for carriage of defence supplies.

Construction of the 8.8-km Rohtnag Tunnel, an engineering marvel, will open up the state’s remotest but most pristine tribal areas of Lahaul-Spiti to tourism and other socio-economic activities, which otherwise remain snowbound for six months, virtually snapping all road links to the region.

For the 35,000-odd population of Lahaul, Spiti and Pangi, the tunnel would reduce travelling distance by 46 km and time by two hours. For many residents of Jammu and Kashmir, especially Leh area, this could be the shortest road link to other parts of the country. However, to make this a reality, the BRO proposes another tunnel at Shinkula Pass (15,920 feet) that will reduce the 470 km journey between Manali-Leh by 100 km.

“Local residents are very enthused about the tunnel and are already planning in advance to ensure that they are able to reap the dividends of the development landmark the moment it is complete,” said Ritesh Chauhan, Deputy Commissioner of Lahaul-Spiti. He says the local people will benefit from the oasis resorts that are likely to come up along the entire route where highway tourism is bound to boom.

Tunnel Trivia

  • What it offers: All-weather road link across the Rohtang Pass, smooth two-way movement for vehicles up to speed of 80 km/hr
  • Features: Lighting, fire hydrants, fresh air
  • Cost: Rs 1,495 crore
  • Completion: By February 2015