An all-weather road to Tawang: BRO conducts final blast on Nechiphu Tunnel - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Friday 20 May 2022

An all-weather road to Tawang: BRO conducts final blast on Nechiphu Tunnel

In the two years since the PLA's intrusions into Eastern Ladakh, the Border Roads Organisation is sparing no effort to build and upgrade road highways to the McMahon Line


By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 21st May 22


The road from Tezpur, in the Brahmaputra River valley in Assam, to the border township of Tawang, is one of India’s most strategic border roads. In the 1962 war with China, when it was barely a jeep track, the Indian Army made little use of it to build up troops on the border, whereas People’s Liberation Army (PLA) assault units used it to rush their forces all the way to Assam.


In the two years since the PLA intrusions into Eastern Ladakh, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is sparing no effort to build and upgrade road highways from Tezpur to the McMahon Line. On Friday, the BRO conducted the final “break through blast” to mark the completion of excavation work on the Nechiphu Tunnel on the Tezpur-to-Tawang road, which will allow it to be used even in the extreme fog that gathers there for months at a stretch.


“The tunnel has been conceived to bypass extreme foggy conditions prevailing around Nechiphu Pass which have caused hindrance to general traffic and military convoys since many decades,” announced the ministry of defence (MoD) on Friday.


Defence Minister Rajnath Singh laid the foundation stone of the Nechiphu Tunnel in October 2020, and today, the BRO chief pulled the trigger from New Delhi on the last of the blasting work.


“The Nechiphu Tunnel, at an altitude of 5,700 feet, is a unique 500-metre-long, D-shaped, single-tube, double-lane tunnel on the Balipara-Charduar-Tawang (BCT) Road in West Kameng District. The tunnel will accommodate two-way traffic and will be equipped with modern lighting and safety facilities,” announced the BRO.


Alongside work on the Nechiphu Tunnel, the BRO has also completed excavation in January on the strategic “Sela Tunnel Project”, on the same road. The Sela tunnel has twin tubes, one measuring 1,555 metres in length and the other 980 metres.


Today’s blast marks the cumulative excavation of more than 4,500 meters of tunnel work achieved by the BRO in less than two years.


“The (Nechiphu) tunnel will be provided with a state-of-the-art electro-mechanical system including firefighting devices, auto illumination system and “supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) controlled monitoring systems. It will also accommodate raised footpaths on both sides for safer pedestrian movement, which will have ducts for power cables, optical fibrecables and utility lines to strengthen the civic amenities infrastructure,” the MoD stated.


“The ongoing tunnel construction is being accomplished by cutting through fragile and highly fractured rock strata. The attendant challenges are being tackled on daily basis through strict 3-D monitoring and through proactive application of tunnel support systems in accordance with the New Austrian Tunneling Method (NATM)”, said the MoD.


The MoD also claims that the BRO has been consistently executing “infrastructural marvels” in some of the most challenging border areas over the last two years. Amongst the successes in tunnelling, it counts the completion of the Atal Tunnel, under the Rohtang Pass in Himachal Pradesh; and the Chamba Tunnel in Uttarakhand. A series of small tunnels has also been completed during this period.

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