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Rohtang tunnel, world’s longest highway tunnel set to open this month

With the project's development work almost complete, the tunnel is now likely to be operational by May 2020 as against the official schedule of September 2020.

During winters, heavy snowfall in the Rohtang Pass, Himachal Pradesh often cuts off villages in Lahaul-Spiti from the rest of India. That is set to change with one of the most prestigious projects in the country – the Rohtang tunnel, which cuts through the Pir Panjal range, providing a winter link to residents of Lahaul and Spiti as well as to those living in Ladakh’s Zanskar valley. The 8.8 km long tunnel is all set to become the world’s longest highway tunnel above 10,000 feet. With the project’s development work almost complete, the tunnel is now likely to be operational by May 2020 as against the official schedule of September 2020, according to an IE report.

Thus, the new targetted deadline has given fresh impetus to the remaining work inside the tunnel. This means that the tunnel, which had been opened a week ago for civilian traffic, will be closed again starting from November 25, with access only to those in need of emergency medical treatment.

KP Purshothanam, Chief Engineer of the project was quoted in the report saying that for medical emergencies, they are considering stationing an ambulance some distance into the tunnel, where patients can be brought in on stretchers. He further said that the facility may only be required in rare cases as the state government’s helicopter service is very active. However, the ambulance facility will come handy in cases where there is inclement weather and patients need access.

According to Purshothanam, now that the residents of Lahaul and Spiti are aware of the fact that the Manali end is now connected to them and available, it is a big psychological boost for them. However, still, there are a lot of electrical works which remain to be done, he informed. Purshothaman further said that every year, ahead of winter season, residents of most of the villages in Lahaul and Spiti would lock their homes and move to Kullu. This is because it is very difficult to get any medical help when the area is under snow. People could fly out by helicopter if they are unwell, but they are stuck during bad weather.

Now, since the tunnel is on the verge of completion, people are already making plans for hotels, warehouses as well as other construction activities, he said. The project will transform the lives of those living across that region, the Chief Engineer added.

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