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Sikkim tunnel to be a boon for locals, Army

Dichen Ongmu | Theng |

Minister of State for Defence Dr Subhash Ramrao Bhamre on Thursday inaugurated the 578- m-long ‘Theng Tunnel’ at Theng in North Sikkim.

With the completion of the tunnel, Sikkim has made a new beginning as it will bring two geographical regions of North and East Sikkim closer, especially after the devastating 2011 earthquake that extensively damaged the road here, officials said on Thursday.

“The tunnel was a long-pending demand of the people here after the road was damaged during the earthquake,” officials said, adding that the road stretch was steep with rocky cliffs and was an accident prone area.

“I am extremely honoured to dedicate this tunnel to the people of Sikkim on behalf of the Government of India. The difficulties faced by the people of North Sikkim on account of troubled communication link between Gangtok and Chungthang, were always a concern for us. The commitment of the present Central Government is to provide hassles-free communication network in hilly and strategically sensitive border roads, and as such, the project for Theng tunnel was conceived and completed,” Mr Bamre said.

He also assured infrastructural development in the state as Sikkim gains fame in the tourism industry, “but it is equally a sensitive area in terms of border security, so we are working highly on the overall development of the state, concerning defence and security.”

“With this construction, the Indian government has ensured safety of road users and enhanced preparedness in the region. Theng tunnel will mark the beginning of a renewed growth in the region and will open the vast tourist potential of the region to the world. It will also boost employment in the tourism sector, regional handicraft and pave way for industrialization of the remote parts of North Sikkim,” he added, while also congratulating the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) that had taken up the tunnel project.

Director General of Border Roads, Lt General Harpal Singh, highlighted the achievements of the BRO and said that Project Swastik has been in the forefront of development activities in Sikkim since 1968. “Project Swastik today maintains 806 km of strategic roads in Sikkim and is engaged in road projects in East Sikkim namely-Flag Hill Dokala (33 km), Tamze-Khola (8.6 km) and Tamze Pt 4685 (16 km).

We are committed to developing these three roads on a war footing and all efforts are being made to complete these at the earliest. We have an ambitious target up to 2021 and have work worth Rs 1580 crore for improvement of roads in Sikkim. We seek support from everyone so that we can transform the road network in remote upper reaches of the state,” Lt Gen Singh said.

“The 578m-long tunnel was undertaken by Project Swastik and the contract was handed over to Airef Engineers Private Limited in 2016 and was completed in May 2018. The total cost of the project is around Rs 45 crore. The tunnel consists of LED lights throughout, fire fighting system, control room and emergency exit. The tunnel has been designed for traffic speed of 40km/h and 500 vehicles per day. The tunnel, being located in high seismic zone, all the structural elements have been designed accordingly,” said Lt General PM Bali, the General Officer Commanding, 33 Corps.

Colonel IM Singh said the tunnel is another feather in the cap of the BRO. “The tunnel will not only ease the hardships of locals and tourists, but will also assist the Army in moving men and material,” he said.