The Ministry of Defence has approved the construction of a 4.5 km long tunnel under the Shinkun La pass, through which the third road linking Ladakh to the rest of the country, currently under construction, passes.
The 297-km long Nimmu-Padum-Darcha road or the third axis to Ladakh starts at Nimo, which lies on the Leh-Srinagar highway, 35 km before Leh.
The road is aligned along the course of Zanskar river till Padum, after which it follows the Lungnak river till Purne village and the Kurgiakh river till Shinkun La pass, which is located on the border of Himachal and Ladakh. It meets Manali-Leh highway in Darcha, a village in Lahaul And Spiti district.
With some parts of the road, like the stretch between Darcha and Shinkun La, having already been constructed, work is underway on other parts. The most critical missing link in this route to Ladakh is a tunnel, which has to come up at Shinkun La.
The Center for Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment, a laboratory of the Defence Research and Development Organization, had in its study of the region and its geology suggested three option for the alignment of the tunnel.
The first of these options was a 4.5 km tunnel located at a distance of 36.5 km from Darcha (99 km stone on Manali-Leh highway). The other two options were a 7 km tunnel and a 13.81 km tunnel.
A report in the Hindustan Times says the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) had suggested going ahead with the option of building a 4.5 km long tunnel, while the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation was in favour of the third option, which involves the construction of a 13.81 km long tunnel.
BRO, the report says, had argued that the 4.5 km tunnel will offer the “best gradient, least overburden and least support requirements.”
The Nimmu-Padum-Darcha road is critical for the Indian Army not only because this alignment is much more secure than the two existing routes (Srinagar-Leh and Manali-Leh roads) to Ladakh but also because this road will be the first all-weather route between Ladakh and the rest of the country.
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