The Border Roads Organisation (BRO), which is responsible for construction and maintenance of roads to the strategic international border areas of the country, has sought to construct two tunnels across the 4170-metre Sela Pass in western Arunachal Pradesh, which will cut down road distance to the China border through Tawang by about 10 kms.
The two tunnels would also obviate high altitude, steep gradient and numerous hair-pin bends, in the process help cut down travel time between Tezpur – the Army’s 4 Corps headquarters – and Tawang by about an hour apart from ensuring that the 171-km Bomdila-Tawang stretch of National Highway 13 remains an all-weather road.
While the BRO has already worked out the technical details for the proposed tunnels that would also positively affect the present road alignment to the strategic international boundary with China beyond Tawang, it would particularly make troops movement easier during the winter when heavy snowfall in the eastern Himalayas often cut off road connectivity in the vital sector.
On Thursday, R S Rao, Commander of 42 BRTF of Project Vartak initiated the formal land acquisition process by handing over a copy of the approved alignment plan to the West Kameng deputy commissioner Sonal Swaroop, so that the tunnel construction process could be taken up on a priority, a BRO official informed.
The project includes construction of two tunnels of 475 metres and 1790 metres length, that will be part of a new 12.37-km alignment, which in turn will cut down the Tezpur-Tawang road distance by a vital 10 km in the high altitudes. Negotiating hair-pin bends and steep gradients in the Sela Pass is a challenging task for both civilians and the Army, especially when there are convoy movements to and fro Tawang from cantonments down at Tenga Valley or in Tezpur.
The BRO’s alignment-cum-tunnel plan also includes double-laning of the existing single-lane road under National Highway specifications for about 25 km between Baishakhi and Nurarang. The Sela Pass, as also several other locations on the 320-km Tezpur-Tawang Road, has several important landmarks of the 1962 Chinese aggression, apart from scenic beauty, with the BRO expecting the proposed Sela Tunnel to also provide a big boost to tourism in the western Arunachal Pradesh sector.