Shimla, July 27 (IANS) Bad weather on Friday forced Union Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari to cancel his day-long visit to Himachal Pradesh that included inspecting the upcoming strategically important motorable tunnel project at 3,000 metres above sea level beneath the Rohtang Pass.
The most ambitious and expensive undertaking of its kind, the excavation of the 8.8-km long horseshoe-shaped tunnel under the 3,978-metre Rohtang Pass in the Himalayas was completed last October. Only some civil engineering work is pending, officials said.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur visited the Rohtang tunnel and inspected the construction work.
He said Gadkari was to visit Rohtang to review the progress, but due to bad weather he could not reach there.
The total cost of the tunnel project is Rs 4,083 crore. The biggest hinderance in construction is managing the Seri rivulet. Completion of work on a stretch of about 600 metres took about four years, he told reporters.
The Chief Minister said the tunnel would not only provide all-weather connectivity to the Lahaul valley, but also enable the tourists to enjoy the serene beauty of Lahaul-Spiti district.
“The tunnel is also of strategic importance as it would provide all-weather road link up to Leh-Ladakh bordering China. This tunnel is a scientific marvel and on completion would attract tourists from all over the world,” an official statement quoting Thakur said.
This ambitious project would be completed by November next year, he added.
“As per the current pace of work, most likely we will complete all civil engineering work by December 2019,” an engineer involved in the tunnel construction told IANS.
“In all probabilities, the tunnel will be made operational by May-June 2020, he added.
The project is being built by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), a wing of the Defence Ministry, in collaboration with Afcons, a joint venture with Strabag AG.
The tunnel’s foundation stone was laid by United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi on June 28, 2010 in the picturesque Solang Valley.