Envisaged by Rajiv Gandhi; Vajpayee opened approach road
UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, who is also heading the National Advisory Council, on Monday laid the foundation of the 8.8-km-long Rohtang tunnel at Dhundi near the famous tourist resort of Manali.
While addressing a public gathering at Solang Nallah later, Ms. Gandhi said the idea of the tunnel was conceived by late Rajiv Gandhi and even the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, during his regime, inaugurated the approach road to the tunnel site from the South Portal.
Praising the efforts of Border Roads Organisation in constructing the tunnel, she said the tunnel would provide all-weather connectivity for the civilians and armed forces personnel and an alternative link to the residents living on the border areas of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu Kashmir.
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, Defence Minister A. K. Antony, Minister of State for Defence M.M. Pallam Raju, Steel Minister Virbhadra Singh and Leader of the Opposition in the Himachal Assembly, Vidya Stokes, were also present on the occasion.
The idea of constructing a tunnel beneath the Rohtang Pass at 13,000 feet was envisaged in 1983 and its construction received an impetus after the Kargil conflict.
It was to be made as an all-weather alternative strategic route to Ladakh from Manali in Himachal Pradesh.
On May 26, 2002, after the detailed feasibility study in 1987, Mr. Vajpayee laid the foundation of the access road to the tunnel costing Rs.180 crore and the access road to south portal tunnel site was completed in 2005.
About 18 avalanche protection structures have been erected on it.
The Cabinet Committee on Security cleared the tunnel project in September 2009 at a cost of about Rs.1,495 crore.
The tunnelling would be completed in 2015 and that would reduce the distance between Manali and Keylong by at least 48 km, said the BRO sources.
More than six to seven feet of snow is reported from the high altitude (13,044 ft.) Rohtang Pass during winter and it remains closed for six to eight months.
The BRO is also studying the feasibility of constructing a tunnel beneath the Shinkula Pass (15,920 ft.).
It has to conduct a feasibility study for construction of a tunnel beneath this pass that would reduce the present distance of 470 km between Manali and Leh by 100 km, they said.