Udaipur (Himachal Pradesh), May 17 (IANS) A 3.5-km stretch of the 8.8-km-long tunnel below the 3,978-metre Rohtang Pass has been completed so far, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh said here Friday.
The tunnel is aimed at ensuring all-weather connectivity to Keylong in Lahaul and Spiti district of the state, he said.
"To ensure round-the-year connectivity to the people of Lahaul, efforts are afoot to complete the Rohtang tunnel project as soon as possible," Virbhadra Singh said at a public rally here.
"The state government is endeavouring to connect tribal and hard areas with rest of the state through tunnels, which would not only reduce the distances but would also boost tourism."
The chief minister said the government would also give priority for constructing tunnels from Tissa to Killar below the Chaini Pass and Bhubbu Jot tunnel on the Jogindernagar-Ghatasni-Shilh Bhadwani-Kullu-Telang road.
Virbhadra Singh, who is touring Lahaul-Spiti for the first time since assuming office Dec 25 in his latest stint, said the government would give priority to carry out developmental activities in tribal areas.
"A provision of Rs.369 crore has been made for 2013-14 under Tribal Area Sub Plan to accelerate the pace of development in tribal areas, besides a provision of Rs.764 crore under non-plan (expenditure)," he said.
The Rohtang tunnel is located at altitudes ranging above 3,000 metres and lies beneath the snow covered Rohtang Pass, some 300 km from Shimla.
It is being built at an estimated cost of Rs.1,495-crore ($290 million) by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) in collaboration with Strabag-Afcons, a joint venture between India's Afcons Infrastructure Ltd. and Strabag SE of Austria.
Once ready, the tunnel will be a boon for the cold deserts of Lahaul Valley, where over 20,000 people remain cut off from the rest of the country in winter because the Rohtang Pass rem,ains closed due to heavy snow.
Besides reducing road distance by approximately 46 km and saving travel time of about four hours, the tunnel will open up new vistas of trade and tourism and generate jobs for the locals. It has the capacity to ply 3,000 vehicles per day under any weather condition.
The foundation stone of the tunnel was laid by Congress president Sonia Gandhi June 28, 2010.