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SOURCE: THE PRINT

With no let up in the India-China border tension, the Modi government is now looking to expedite work on border infrastructure, especially on roads leading to forward areas in Arunachal Pradesh, and all-weather tunnels in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Ministry of Home Affairs, as part of its Indo-China Border Roads (ICBR) projects, has awarded six road stretches in Arunachal Pradesh to the National Highways Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL) on a nomination basis, at an estimated cost of approximately Rs 5,000 crore.

The length of the six stretches is around 100 km and work is expected to take two years to complete. “As of now, our soldiers walk on foot for three to four days to reach some of the forward locations. Once the roads are built, it will take about 7-10 hours,” said a road ministry official who did not want to be named.

This is the first time that NHIDCL, a fully owned company under the Union road ministry, has been awarded road projects in the forward areas of Arunachal Pradesh, instead of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), which is under the defence ministry.

NHIDCL was set up in 2014 with a special focus on building roads and highways in the northeast and border areas.

“MHA had called NHIDCL, Public Works Department and BRO to make a presentation. We were the ones who managed to bag the projects,” said a second road ministry official who did not want to be named.

NHIDCL completes DPR of Shinkhun La Pass tunnel

Besides the roads being built in Arunachal Pradesh, NHIDCL has also been handed projects to build at least six tunnels to improve connectivity to Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.

The most crucial among these is the 13.5 km tunnel at Shinkhun La pass in Himachal Pradesh, which will provide an alternate route to Leh.

“At present one has to go through Zojila in Kashmir to reach Leh. The road is closed during the winter months because of snow,” a senior NHIDCL official, who did not want to be named, said. “Once the Shinkhun La pass tunnel is complete, one will not have to enter J&K to reach Ladakh.”

NHIDCL was tasked with preparing the Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the project. “We have completed the DPR and a presentation will be made before the defence ministry in January. The defence ministry will then go to the cabinet for getting the project approved,” added the NHIDCL official.

The tunnel at Shinkhun La Pass is estimated to cost over Rs 5,000 crore.

Five more tunnels are also coming up in J&K. This includes the Zojila and Z-Morh tunnel, the 12 km-long Daranga tunnel at Shudh Mahadev, which will provide an alternate route to Srinagar via Anant Nag, and the 10 km Vailoo tunnel at Sinthan Pass.

“While work has started on the Zojila and Z-Morh tunnel, we have completed the DPR of Daranga tunnel,” the official added.