Excavation completed on Sela tunnel to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh

By Dinakar Peri
Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, with Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, presides over breakthrough blast of Sela Main Tunnel via video-conferencing, at an event organised by BRO india, in New Delhi, on October 14. (Source: PTI)

In a major milestone in providing all weather connectivity to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh close to border with China, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) on Thursday carried out the breakthrough blast of the main tube of the Sela tunnel which marks the completion of the excavation process.

“Along with strengthening the national security, this tunnel will work to strengthen the socio-economic condition of the citizens by bringing a big change in the transport facility of the local population. This Sela Tunnel will prove to be the lifeline for Tawang and the entire Arunachal Pradesh in the times to come,” Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said, presiding over the event via video-conference.

Sela is located at an altitude of 13,800ft on the 317km long Balipara-Charduar-Tawang (BCT) road which connects West Kameng, East Kameng and Tawang districts of Arunachal Pradesh to the rest of the country.

Stating that BRO personnel are facing winter, summer, rain and snowfall, to build roads and bridges for military and civil purposes, Mr. Singh said BRO has achieved such achievements, which have become a subject of study for the whole world. “Whether it is the ‘Atal Tunnel, Rohtang’, or the world’s highest motorable pass built at Umling-La, or today the ‘Sela tunnel’ which has reached the last stage of its development, which is the world’s longest bi-lane tunnel built at an altitude of more than 13,000ft.”

The tunnel has two tubes that is a two-way tube of 1.55km and an escape tube of 980metres, besides 8.8km of approach roads. Work on the 980-metre long second tunnel of the project has already crossed the 700-metre mark, a Defence Ministry statement said.

The foundation stone for the Sela tunnel was laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 09, 2019. The construction of the tunnel started on April 01, 2019 with the first blast taking place on October 31, 2019. The first blast of the escape tube was carried out in January 2021 and last blast was conducted on July 22, 2021. Despite COVID-19 restrictions and adverse weather conditions, the pace of works has increased in the last 10 months, according to BRO.

“This unique tunnel constructed using the latest New Austrian Tunneling Method is much below the snow line allowing all weather travel without the challenges of snow clearance,” the statement said. The tunnel will reduce the distance by 6km and travel time by an hour and ensure speedier movement across the Sela Pass and ensure connectivity even during winter.

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