India beefing up infrastructure along China border; new strategic tunnel being constructed in Uttarakhand
India is continuing beefing up infrastructure for better connectivity to the Line of Actual Control with China, even as troops from both countries are locked in a standoff in Ladakh following China objecting to Indian road construction activities in the region. A major “milestone” has been achieved in the construction of a strategic tunnel in Uttarakhand that will provide faster mobility to troops and equipment to the border with China.
The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) on Tuesday said that it has achieved a breakthrough and a “perfect” linkup of the construction teams of the north and south portals of the Chamba tunnel. The tunnel will be opened for traffic by October this year, almost three months before its scheduled date of completion. Located below the densely populated Chamba town on the Rishikesh-Dharasu road, the tunnel is part of the Char Dham Pariyojana, a project worth about Rs 12,000 crore to improve and develop 889 km of national highways to provide all-weather connectivity to the four holy places in Uttarakhand- Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath. The project will also provide better connectivity to troops to the Line of Actual Control.
By using the tunnel, troops, artillery guns and vehicles will be able to quickly reach important places along the border with China such as the Nelong Valley, officials said on the condition of anonymity. The tunnel is on the road which leads to Bhaironghati from Dharasu and then to Nelong Valley. This will ensure troops can easily move from depth areas to forward areas.
The construction of the tunnel was a challenging task due to issues in land acquisition, weak geology and continuous water seepage. There was also a dense built up area above the tunnel, which increased the chances of it sinking in. The BRO started work on the tunnel’s north portal in January last year, but work on the south portal could commence only after October when issues regarding land compensation and safety of houses above the tunnel were resolved to the satisfaction of all stakeholders with active support from the state government. There were also difficulties due to COVID-19 induced lockdown that prevented workers from reaching the construction site and also affected the movement of material. The Director General Border Roads Lieutenant General Harpal Singh said that the latest Austrian technology has been used in the construction of the 450 m long tunnel worth Rs 88 crore.
The development comes in the backdrop of the Chinese objecting to Indian road construction along Pangong Tso and on another road that is linked to the strategic Darbukh-Shyok-DBO road made last year. Troops from both sides are locked in a standoff after transgressions by the Chinese in Pangong Tso and Galwan valley. But even in other areas, the BRO speedened infrastructure development such as recommencing work on the Rohtang tunnel, also known as the Atal tunnel, in April after it was halted for 10 days. Army Chief General M M Naravane had told ET that this tunnel will be completed by October. He also mentioned that work on other tunnels at Sela in Arunachal Pradesh and under the Brahmaputra is happening. The BRO had also opened the Manali-Leh road and Rohtang pass– that get blocked with snowfall every year–weeks in advance.
Meanwhile, Roads, Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari on Tuesday posted on Twitter, “Happy to announce that our Border Roads Organisation (BRO) team has made a major breakthrough in the Chardham Project. They have successfully dug up 440 m long Tunnel below the busy Chamba town on Rishikesh-Dharasu road Highway(NH 94). Reducing traffic congestion and distance to the Chambal town in future, the development of roads in these areas will ease the movement for yatris on Chardham Yatra and bring economic prosperity.”
Singh added that as part of the Char Dham project, the BRO is speeding up construction of 250 km of roads to the Gangotri and Badrinath shrines. Five projects are slated for completion by October this year.