Establishing road connectivity in India’s frontier regions, especially up in the mountains is an arduous task. Thus, in a significant development on Thursday, the Centre inaugurated the 578-metre long Theng Tunnel in North Sikkim, which authorities argue will improve connectivity in both North and East Sikkim, especially since the devastating 2011 earthquake had extensively damaged the link road.
“I am extremely honoured to dedicate this tunnel to the people of Sikkim on behalf of the Government of India. The difficulties faced by the people of North Sikkim on account of the troubled communication link between Gangtok and Chungthang, were always a concern for us,” said Subhash Ramrao Bamre, Minister of State for Defence according to The Statesman.
The tunnel bypasses a treacherous stretch of road between Gangtok and Chungthang, which frequently remains closed due to land slides and shooting boulders, reports IANS.
The construction of Sikkim’s longest tunnel was undertaken by Project Swastik, an arm of the Border Roads Organisation in its Eastern sector. The contract was handed over to a private firm in 2016 and completed last month. The tunnel was constructed at a cost of 45 crores and is equipped with LED lighting, a firefighting system, control room and emergency exit.
Going by the structural design, the tunnel can handle vehicles travelling at 40 km/h and 500 vehicles per day, since it’s located in a high seismic zone.
Besides facilitating greater connectivity and better inflow of tourists, the tunnel will also serve the Centre in ensuring greater border security.
“It will not only ease the hardships of locals and tourists but will also assist the Army in moving men and material,” a senior official told The Statesman.
A significant feature of infrastructure development in the frontier regions, especially those situated in the rough mountain terrains of Ladakh, is the work carried out by our armed forces. In Sikkim, major infrastructure work around connectivity has been undertaken by Project Swastik since 1968.
“Today, Project Swastik maintains 806 km of strategic roads in Sikkim and is engaged in road projects in East Sikkim namely-Flag Hill Dokala (33 km), Tamze-Khola (8.6 km) and Tamze Pt 4685 (16 km). We are committed to developing these three roads on a war footing, and all efforts are being made to complete these at the earliest. We have an ambitious target up to 2021 and have work worth Rs 1580 crore for improvement of roads in Sikkim,” said Lt General Harpal Singh, the DG of Border Roads.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)