The 4.5 kilometres long Silkyara tunnel project in Uttarakhand, which is part of the central government's strategic 900-km 'Char Dham Yatra All Weather Road', will continue after the necessary safety audit and repair of the broken structure, a senior road ministry official said on Wednesday, reported news agency PTI.
The ambitious Rs 12,000-crore project aims to provide all-weather connectivity to four holy towns -- Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath -- in Uttarakhand, reported PTI.
A rescue team on Tuesday pulled out all 41 workers trapped under the collapsed portion of the under-construction Silkyara tunnel in a multi-agency operation that hovered between hope and despair for almost 17 days, reported PTI.
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"In fact, the safety audit of the Silkyara tunnel will be conducted. Meanwhile, efforts will be made to repair and rectify the broken structure. The necessary precautions will be taken and the 4.5 km long tunnel project will continue," the official who was part of the rescue team told PTI.
Speaking to PTI, project head of Zojila Tunnel Harpal Singh said there could be several possible reasons for the collapse of the Silkyara tunnel.
"These could be poor geological investigation, under-designed ground support systems, mistakes during construction, poor data monitoring and mitigation measures during construction or poor supervision control," he explained.
Singh was of the view that "all highway and rail tunnels should be planned with an escape tunnel parallel to the main tunnel", reported PTI.
The strategic Zojila tunnel, an all-weather link between the Kashmir valley and the Ladakh region -- is being constructed by Megha Engineering and Infrastructures Ltd (MEIL), reported PTI.
In 2021, in an interview with PTI, Union road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari had termed allegations that the Char Dham road project triggered landslides in Uttarakhand as 'misinformation' and asserted that the government is sensitive about ecology and environment while carrying out development projects, reported PTI.
Gadkari had pointed out that now, the hilly terrains have been secured with the construction of a tunnel (beneath Chamba town), reported PTI.
A 2019 report headed by veteran environmentalist Ravi Chopra described the Char Dham project -- an ongoing road project that will connect the four important pilgrim towns of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri -- as "an assault on the Himalayas", reported PTI.
The committee recommended limiting the width of the road to 5.5 metres on the Char Dham project. However, in December 2021, the Supreme Court in its order allowed the road width to 10 metres, reported PTI.
The Supreme Court allowed double-lane widening of the Char Dham highway project in Uttarakhand, observing that the country's security concerns may change over time and the recent past has thrown serious national security challenges, reported PTI.
The judgment clearing the way for a double-lane paved shoulder (DL-PS) configuration for the project had come in the backdrop of the standoff between Indian and Chinese militaries in several areas along the LAC (line of actual control) in Ladakh, reported PTI.
"The considerations for development of national highways in plains and in hilly and mountainous regions are not identical," it had noted, reported PTI.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid the foundation stone of the 'Char Dham Yatra All Weather Road Project' on December 27, 2016.
The original deadline of the project was March 2020.
(With inputs from PTI)