Sela Tunnel, which is in the final stages of construction, will be the longest bi-lane road tunnel in the world at an altitude above 13,000 feet upon completion. It is being excavated below 4,200 meters of Sela Pass and promises to provide all-weather connectivity to Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh. It will not only enhance connectivity in the northeast but also has a significant strategic role to play.
The strategic importance of Sela Tunnel
According to a PTI report, this tunnel is expected to cut down the distance to the China border through Tawang by 10 km.
“The tunnel would also cut down by at least an hour the travel time between the Army’s 4 Corps headquarters at Tezpur in Assam and Tawang.”Therefore, it is expected to ensure faster movement of troops in Tawang, a strategically-located district bordering China and it provides accessibility to the troops to National Highway 13 and especially the 171-km stretch between Bomdila and Tawang in all weather conditions.
When the construction began
Former Union finance minister Arun Jaitley in his 2018-19 budget, had announced the government’s plan to build a tunnel through Sela Pass located at an elevation of 13,700 ft, which will ensure faster movement of troops in Tawang.
On February 09, 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had established the foundation stone of the Sela Tunnel. According to a PIB report, the construction of the tunnel started on April 01, 2019, with the first blast taking place on October 31, 2019. “The excavation pace of Sela Tunnel has been swift as it has resulted in the breaking down of the escape tube of the 1,555 meters tunnel on July 22, 2021, much ahead of schedule. Despite COVID-19 restrictions and adverse weather conditions, the pace of works has increased in the last 6-10 months,” the report states.
On Wednesday, media reports claimed that Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will conduct virtually the final breakthrough blast of the Sela tunnel in Arunachal Pradesh. The constructed work is expected to be over by June 2022, the sources noted.
Making North East Accessible
This important tunnel constructed using the latest New Austrian Tunneling Method (NATM) is considerably below the snow line, which makes it accessible during all weather.
Commute through the Sela tunnel will prove to be a boon for the people of Tawang since it will reduce travel time and ensure speedier movement across the Sela Pass. It is expected to play a crucial role in the development of not just Arunachal Pradesh, but the entire North-East by enhancing connectivity and making it more accessible.
In a recent interview to ANI, DG BRO Lt Gen Rajeev Chaudhary said, “It (Sela Tunnel) will not only strengthen security but also connect far-flung areas, making it feasible for the people of West Arunachal to commute. It’ll increase tourism & improve the economy; completion expected by June/July or August next year.”