New Delhi: A year after the Galwan clash the Ministry of Defence has given green signal a 4.25-kilometre Border Roads Organisation (BRO) tunnel under the 5,091-metre-high Shinkun La pass towards an all-weather strategic Nimmu-Padum-Darcha road to feed supplies to Indian military formations in the Ladakh sector. The new alignment will be the third axis to Ladakh and will be least exposed to the adversary as compared to the Srinagar-Zoji La-Kargil axis and Manali-Upshi-Leh axis.
This all-weather snow-free axis is expected to be completed by 2024.
The present Manali-Sarchu-Upshi-Leh road goes over four high mountain passes of around 5,000-metre in height even after the construction of the Atal tunnel under Rohtang pass and remains snowed for at least three to four months during the winter season. The four passes on the present Manali-Leh route are: Baralacha La (16500 feet), Nakee La (15547 feet), Lachung La (16616 feet) and Tanglang La (17480 feet).
According to sources, Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh and top officials decided in favour of the BRO proposal instead of National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL), which was recommending an altogether new road alignment with a 13.5 km tunnel under Shinku La.
"Both BRO and NHIDCL made presentations before the minister in March 2021. After studying both the proposals, the defence ministry has decided in favour of a shorter tunnel. The decision could not be put on the paper as a number of senior officials involved in this project were hit by Covid-19 infection," said a defence ministry official. The NHIDCL has been preparing a detailed project report of the project since 2017, much before the Chinese Army transgressed into Ladakh in May 2020.
It is understood that the total cost of the BRO tunnel construction will be around Rs 1,000 crore due to the simple design and requirement of basic electromechanical fittings. The 4.25 km tunnel will have longitudinal ventilation using banana fans, which require minimum electricity and operational costs.
BRO has already converted the 100 km of a total of 297-kilometre long Darcha-Padum-Nimmu road into double lane and black-top. With the new axis, the distance between Manali and Leh will remain unchanged, however, this new axis will remain totally snow-free round the year allowing movement of both troops and equipment to feed Ladakh, Kargil and Siachen sectors.