If you have been eagerly awaiting the completion of the 8.8km tunnel at Rohtang pass in Himachal Pradesh, giving wanderlust seekers all-weather access to the Lahaul-Spiti region, you are one step closer to your dream destination.
Proposed in 1983 and launched in 2010, this 8.8 km tunnel is deemed the country’s longest. With only four metres left to be excavated in the middle of the tunnel, starting from Dhundi in Kullu district and ending at Gufa Hotel, near Sissu, in Lahaul-Spiti district, the tunnel is ‘almost on the brink of completion’ after a delay of over three years.
The plan of action is to join both the sides of the tunnel after the remaining portion is excavated, reported the Times of India.
“Less than four metres of tunnelling is still to be done. It will take one or two more blasts to achieve the breakthrough, a moment which we are waiting for years,” a Border Roads Organisation (BRO) engineer told the publication.
An official ceremony on 24th October graced by defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman will see another metre of excavation.
The long-awaited Rohtang tunnel is anticipated to be opened for travellers in 2019. It will cut down the distance between Manali and the district headquarter of Lahaul, i.e. Keylong by 48 km and eliminate the complete need for vehicles to cross the Rohtang pass.
This tunnel will allow tribals in the Lahaul valley to finally connect to the outside world apart from their vicinity during harsh winters. Also, permission will be granted to people to cross the tunnel, in case of medical emergencies in the winters.
Its use for general traffic will have to wait until the digging is complete and other facilities like security points, fire safety, complete ventilation and telephone booths are set up at regular intervals.
Deemed an immensely important project for the Indian Army, the tunnel will provide year-round connectivity to Lahaul and Spiti district and help army personnel access areas near Pakistan and China easily.
Speaking to TOI Retired Kargil hero, Brigadier Khushal Thakur said, “It is an important milestone for defence personnel. I’ve personally experienced the importance of year-round road connectivity during the Kargil war. Both Zojila pass of J&K and Rohtang pass of Himachal remain blocked in winters. This tunnel will not only cut the distance but also provide all-weather connectivity. Three more tunnels are needed to make the Manali-Leh road an all-weather one, but the most crucial tunnel is almost done.”