"The tunnels would cut down at least an hour of travel time between the Army's 4 Corps headquarters at Tezpur and Tawang. Moreover, the tunnels would ensure that National Highway 13 and especially the 171 km stretch between Bomdila and Tawang, remains accessible in all weather conditions," a BRO release said in Itanagar today.
This is in keeping with India's bid for faster access to the Tibet frontier through the tough terrain of the state in the Eastern Himalayas.
RS Rao, the commander of the 42 Border Road Task Force under BRO's Project Vartak has initiated formal requisition to West Kameng Deputy Commissioner (DC) Sonal Swaroop for acquisition of land for construction of Sela Tunnel, the release said.
The project constitutes widening of existing single lane road to National Highway double lane specifications from Baisaki and then taking off a greenfield alignment of length 12.37 km.
It also includes construction of two tunnels of length 475 metres and 1790 meters each through Sela-Chabrela ridge meeting the existing Balipara-Chaudur-Tawang road on the Nurarang side, it said. The alignment has been approved by the Chief Engineer, Project Vartak.
There is a shorter but less used road along the Bhutan border via Orang in Assam and Kalaktang in Arunachal Pradesh.
"Due to construction of tunnels across Sela pass the road length reduces by approximately 6.50 km in addition obviates high altitude, steep gradient and hair pin bends on either side of Sela pass which, would bring relief to commuters as lot of hardships have to be faced in winter season due to snowfall at on Sela pass," the release said.
"Sela tunnel will add to the tourist potential of Tawang and attract more tourists making Tawang a more popular destination in North East region," it added.
"The new alignment of the road to Tawang involves 12.37 km and the construction of two tunnels to bypass Sela and a number of hairpin bends. The altitude of the new alignment will vary between 11,000 and 12,000 ft," Ms Swaroop informed from Bomdila, the district headquarters. "The survey for land acquisition will start after the monsoon," she added.
The BRO, which manages the roads across India's borders, has completed technical details of the proposed tunnels.
They would be a boon to the Indian army troops in winters when heavy snowfall hinders connectivity on roads.