30 Nov 2023

Uttarakhand: When will work resume on Silkyara Tunnel in Uttarkashi?

The work on Silkyara Tunnel Project in Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand, spanning four and a half kilometers, is set to resume. The tunnel has been making headlines for the past 17 days after 41 workers were trapped when tunnel collapsed on Diwali day.


A spokesperson from the Ministry of Road and Transport informed the media, stating, "This is a crucial segment of the government's extensive 900 km 'Char Dham Yatra All Weather Road' project. The pause in construction is to facilitate a safety audit and repair of damaged sections. Once these necessary measures are completed, the work on the project will recommence."

The overarching goal of the Rs 12,000 crore Chardham project is to establish road connectivity to the four major pilgrimage sites in Uttarakhand—Yamunotri, Gangotri, Badrinath, and Kedarnath.

Comprehensive review of Silkyara tunnel project

A senior official from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH), speaking anonymously, stated, "We will conduct a comprehensive review of the Silkyara tunnel project and make improvements to existing systems."

Emphasizing that the collapse of the Silkyara tunnel was an 'accident,' the official revealed that the Uttarakhand government had established a six-member expert committee to investigate the causes of the collapse.

The MoRTH official mentioned that a decision on forming a committee to further investigate the collapse would be made later. 

Harpal Singh, the project head of the Zojila Tunnel, expressed that there could be various reasons for the Silkyara tunnel collapse.

Singh advocated for the incorporation of escape tunnels parallel to main tunnels in the planning of all highway and rail tunnels. The Zojila tunnel, a strategic all-weather link between the Kashmir valley and Ladakh, is being constructed by Megha Engineering and Infrastructures Ltd (MEIL).

Gadkari had earlier dismissed allegations that Char Dham road project triggered landslides 

In 2021, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari dismissed allegations that the Char Dham road project triggered landslides in Uttarakhand, labeling them as 'misinformation.' He asserted the government's sensitivity to ecology and the environment during development projects.

A 2019 report led by environmentalist Ravi Chopra criticized the Char Dham project, describing it as "an assault on the Himalayas" and recommending a road width limit of 5.5 meters. 

However, in December 2021, the Supreme Court permitted a width of 10 meters, citing national security concerns amidst tensions between India and China along the LAC (Line of Actual Control) in Ladakh.

The judgment acknowledged that considerations for developing national highways in plains and mountainous regions differ. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had inaugurated the 'Char Dham Yatra All Weather Road Project' on December 27, 2016, with an initial deadline set for March 2020.

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