The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has sought to construct two 475 metres and 1790 metres long tunnels across the 4170-metre-long, sparsely populated Sela Pass in western Arunachal Pradesh.
The tunnels, which would be part of a new 12.37-km alignment, would cut down the 320-km distance from Tezpur, the Army’s 4 Corps headquarters, to Arunachal’s Tawang by about 10 km and bring down the travel time by an hour. Tawang is located at a height of 10,000 feet on the border with China.
According to the report, these two tunnels would help avoid high altitude, steep gradient and numerous hair-pin bends. This would make troops movement in this vital sector easier during the winter when heavy snowfall in the eastern Himalayas often cuts off road connectivity. The BRO’s alignment-cum-tunnel project also includes double-laning of the existing 25 km long single-lane road between Baishakhi and Nurarang.
Sela Pass, located at a picturesque horizon, also has several important landmarks of the 1962 Chinese war. The easy accessibility to Sela Pass thus will also provide a big boost to tourism.
The wheels regarding the project are already in motion. RS Rao, the Commander of 42 Border Road Task Force(BRTF) under BRO’s Project Vartak, has initiated the formal land acquisition process on 20 July. He has handed over a copy of the approved alignment plan to West Kameng deputy commissioner Sonal Swaroop so that the construction can be taken up on a priority basis. The BRO too has already worked out the technical details regarding the proposed tunnels.
This tunnel project assumes significance in the wake of the ongoing standoff between Indian Army and China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) at India-China-Bhutan tri-junction over Chinese activities at the Doklam plateau.
Apart from this, the Ministry of Railways is also planning to bring rail lines to Tawang via the Bhalukpong-Tenga-Tawang Railway project. The survey work is scheduled to begin from next year. This project is likely to cost the Indian Railways between Rs 50,000 to Rs 70,000 crore.