In a bid to protect glaciers and enhance connectivity during snow and otherwise for the military and civilians, the Ladakh administration is contemplating building tunnels across at least four high passes in the cold desert region.
According to Ajeet Kumar Sahu, commissioner/secretary PWD Ladakh UT, these tunnels will improve internal connectivity in the region that remains snowbound during winters.
Sahu said consultants have been hired to prepare DPRs of tunnels across Khardung La (17,582 ft), Fotu La (13,478 ft), Namika La (12,139 ft) and Key-La (18600 ft). He was reviewing the status of the survey and feasibility study conducted by M/S RITES who have been assigned to prepare DPRs of these tunnels.
It is pertinent to mention here that an all-weather tunnel enhances connectivity between valleys for facilitating the movement of military, civilians, and tourists in the region.
Construction of these tunnels will lead to faster, safer and smoother movement of internal traffic resulting in the all-around economic development of Ladakh.
The proposed 5.5 km-long Khardung-La tunnel is expected to shorten the travel time by an hour from Leh to Nubra valley that is the gateway to the militarily strategic Siachen Glacier. This will also help increase the safety of travellers due to bypassing of landslide and avalanche-prone areas.
Besides, the tunnel would also protect the Khardung glacier, which is a major source of water for Leh town from receding due to the increase in heat emitted by automotive vehicular movement.
The consultant agency for the project shared that the proposed bypass tunnels at the Fotu La and Namika La passes will reduce the travel distance from Kargil to Leh by around an hour besides providing safety in traffic movement due to the accumulation of snow and icing on road during winters. The expected increase of traffic on this road in winter after the opening of the Zojila tunnel also necessitates construction of these tunnels as it serves as a strategic route for logistic supply to Ladakh.
These tunnels are expected to boost local business activities, employment opportunities, and tourism in the region.
M/s RITES informed that preliminary survey and testing on all locations has been done and certain options have been worked out on the tunnel alignments. Those are being examined technically as well as through a cost-benefit analysis. Some pending testing would be done in the next working season to clearly assess the geological formation of these passes.
Sahu asked to send the initial report before 31 December this year so that required approvals are obtained in advance.
The meeting was attended by the Director ULB, Dr. Zahida Bano; Chief Engineer Project Vijayak, BRO, Brigadier Vinay Bahl; Chief Engineer, PWD (R&B) /PMGSY, Tashi Chombel, and officials of the consultant agency RITES.