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Chenani-Nashri – a tunnel at the end of a struggle

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India’s longest road tunnel had to overcome floods, payment disputes, accidents and landslides before it could see the light of day.

The inauguration of the Chenani-Nashri tunnel in Jammu and Kashmir on 2 April gave Prime Minister Narendra Modi yet another opportunity to urge young Kashmiris to shun violence and discover the immense possibilities offered by peace in the region. Somewhat lost in the political messaging was the long and tortuous journey of the tunnel itself – the longest in the country at 9.2 km.

The tunnel connects Chenani in Udhampur and Nashri in Ramban district. It is at an elevation of 1200 metres and will reduce the travel time from Jammu to Srinagar by two hours. It will also make Srinagar accessible by road through the year and save an estimated Rs 27 lakh worth of fuel per day.

The project was conceived in 2009 when Manmohan Singh was prime minister. The contract was bagged by Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services (IL&FS) and work started in June 2011. The original estimate of the project cost was Rs 2,521 crore but it ended up costing Rs 3,720 crore.

The project was expected to be completed in May 2016 and IL&FS was hoping to finish it ahead of schedule by December 2015. But a variety of reasons conspired to delay it

by more than 10 months.

It started with the devastating floods of September 2014 that hit life in the Valley. The floods killed more than 300 people and badly disrupted the lives of some 250,000 people.

In October 2015, Leighton Contractors, which was working on the project, demanded more money as workers wanted higher payments. The development saw Leighton moving out of the project and leaving IL&FS in the lurch. In January 2016, 10 workers died and four were badly injured in a tragic fire accident. Frequent landslides were another hindrance.

The tunnel is constructed using one of the most advanced technologies called the New Austrian Tunnelling Method which basically uses the existing geological strength in the rock mass of the tunnelling area to stabilise it. A parallel tunnel runs alongside the main tunnel to be used for rescue and emergency purposes. The diameter of the main tunnel is 13 metre while the diameter of the emergency tunnel is 6 metre.

The two tunnels are interconnected at 29 places. The tunnel also has inlet tubes at every 8 metres for fresh air and exhaust tubes every 100 metres. An Integrated Tunnel Control Room (ITCR), located outside the tunnel, will use 124 cameras to keep an eye inside the tunnel.

For the safety of the passengers, SOS boxes are installed every 150 metres and are connected to the ITCR. The SOS boxes are also provided with first aid medical care items. Besides, the tunnel also has mobile phone connectivity through its stretch.
-Rajgopal Singh is a Reporter at ThePrint. You can follow him on Twitter @Rajgopal88

Picture Courtesy: Nitin Gadkari’s Twitter handle

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