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January 6, 2012

Govt plans 11 tunnels on Pak, China borders

The Union government is planning to build 11 tunnels in the strategically important road stretches close to the Pakistan and China borders. Two more tunnels will be built in Uttarakhand to improve connectivity in the hilly state. These all-weather tunnels, which will be built by the Border Road Organization (BRO), would cover about 89km. These tunnels are expected to help rapid mobilization of troops and equipments besides providing better connectivity to local residents, officials said.

At a recent review meeting about the progress of road projects implemented by BRO, the road construction wing of the Army told the highways ministry officials that the feasibility studies of three projects are under progress. Two of them - the 12km Zojila and the 6.5km Z Morh tunnels - fall in Jammu and Kashmir and are crucial for connectivity between Srinagar and Leh. These two regions often remain cut off during winter as snow covers the highway connecting the regions. The third project has been planned near Rudraprayag in Uttarakhand.

The BRO is likely to undertake the feasibility study of another nine tunnels in J&K, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. India had stopped the road building activities in regions close to China border after the 1962 war with a view that better road network could help the Chinese forces to spread in case of an invasion. But that doctrine has been changed and several road development works are being undertaken by the BRO, which are funded by the ministry of road transport and highways (MoRTH).

The BRO would take up construction of two tunnels, totaling 25.4km on Balipara-Charduar-Tawang road that would improve connectivity to Tawang region throughout the year. Supply of troops in Tawang region is being met by helicopters. Two more crucial tunnels have been planned in Sikkim, which are located only 19.3 and 24.6 km distance from the line of control (LoC).

Rangpo tunnel in Sikkim that will be only 800meter long, is also expected to be built soon.

Details available from a BRO presentation made to the highways ministry show that the completion of strategic roads has so far been unsatisfactory. Out of the 18 strategic roads totaling 1,693km, only four (102km) have been completed so far. Work on about 1,096 km is in progress. "The BRO officers have told us that they face hardship in mobilization of men and material and they execute the projects under tough conditions. But they are expediting the key road networks which are strategically important and would also bring economic prosperity to neglected regions," said a senior highway official. 


Times of India

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