Rohtang Tunnel is being built under the Rohtang Pass in the eastern Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas on the Leh-Manali Highway.
About 9km in length, the tunnel is at about 10,000 ft whereas the Rohtang pass is at 13,500 ft at a distance of 51 km from Manali. The pass receives heavy snowfall and blizzards during winter months and is open for road traffic only four months in a year. Lying on the Manali-Leh axis, this is one of the two routes to Ladakh. The other route through the Zoji La pass on the Srinagar-Drass-Kargil-Leh highway also gets blocked by snow for nearly four months in a year.
Cutting travel time by over 4 hours
Expected to be completed by 2017, the tunnel would cut short the distance between Manali and Keylong (enroute to Leh) by around 60km and will be open to traffic 12 months a year. Currently, 85km distance from Manali to Keylong on either side of Rohtang Pass is usually covered by vehicles in around five to six hours, without taking into account the long hours of traffic jams on the arduous route. The same distance would be covered in less than one hour through this tunnel!
All photographs by Pallav Moitra.