Rohtang Tunnel Project Way Behind Schedule
30 September 2007
The Times of India
New Delhi: The already long-delayed Rohtang tunnel project in Himachal Pradesh, aimed at establishing 'an all-weather alternative route' to the strategic Ladakh region, continues to be plagued by slippages. Latest defence ministry (MoD) estimates show the 8.82-km tunnel under the 13,400-feet Rohtang Pass, which will reduce the distance between Manali and Leh by 47 km, will now be ready only by 2013-2014 at the earliest. 'But this, too, is an optimistic timeframe. Since the then PM Atal Behari Vajpayee laid the Rohtang tunnel's foundation stone in May 2001, the timeframe has been revised at least three times,' said an official. Political and bureaucratic apathy, coupled with environmental objections as well as the technical complexity of the project, has meant the much-needed tunnel still remains a pipedream despite being mooted around three decades ago. It was in September 2005 that the government had approved Rs 1,355.82 crore for the construction of the tunnel, along with approach roads and alternative road to Leh via Darcha-Padam-Nimu in September 2005. Around 290 km of this 434-km alternative road has to be built by Border Roads Organisation (BRO). While some work has begun on this, the 'approach roads' to the north (23.8 km) and south (2.7 km) portals of the tunnel have now been fully completed. But work on the actual tunnel, by drilling a hole through the Rohtang Hill, is yet to kick off. Minister of state for defence, M M Pallam Raju, after visiting the project site over the weekend, said this would begin in April 2008. He, in fact, was quite optimistic the project would be completed by 2013. As things stand now, BRO has shortlisted eight 'joint venture firms', who have formed partnerships with multinational companies, out of the 13 which responded to the February 2006 global tender for 'specialised tunnel design requirement'.