Rohtang tunnel - Ray of prosperity for locals
Abnormal delay in Rohtang Tunnel concerns locals’ hope to see the light at the other end.
Residents of tiny hamlets spread across Himachal Pradesh’s Lahaul Valley, where temperature plummet to minus 20 degrees Celsius in winter, want to see the light at the end of the Rohtang tunnel. Every year, when heavy snowfall high up the Rohtang Pass closes the road connectivity to the valley in Lahaul-Spiti district for at least five months, the lone state-run helicopter, which normally operates once in a week to transport the locals, is the only mode of transportation. “We want timely completion of the Rohtang tunnel to end our miseries forever,” said octogenarian Mr Khajana Ram, a resident of Keylong. He said an abnormal delay in completing work on the tunnel, a strategically important project beneath the Rohtang Pass that will ensure all-weather connectivity to the valley, was a matter of concern.
Added Sonam Dolkar in Sissu village: “No vegetable other than peas and potatoes that grow locally reach here once the road links snap in December. For five months, we have to relish only the stored vegetables and meat.” The Rs.1, 495-crore tunnel’s foundation stone was laid by United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi June 28, 2010, in the picturesque Solang Valley. Official sources said that the horse-shoe-shaped 8.8-km-long tunnel that missed its February 2015 deadline is likely to be completed by 2017. They said digging was over in half of the tunnel but the delay will face a cost overrun of Rs. 500-600 crore.
Mr Ravi Thakur, Vice Chairperson of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes said that he had apprised Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi about the abnormal delay in its execution. “I have requested the prime minister to direct the home ministry and the BRO to speed up the work of tunnelling and construction and maintenance and the roads and bridges connected to the Rohtang tunnel,” said Mr Thakur, the local legislator. The project is being built by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) in collaboration with Strabag-Afcons, a joint venture between India’s Afcons Infrastructure Ltd and Strabag SE of Austria.