Overcoming Challenges: Construction of Sela Tunnel in Arunachal

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi virtually inaugurated Arunachal Pradesh’s Sela Tunnel project, a vital axis connecting Tezpur in Assam with Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh. The tunnel, constructed at an altitude of 13,000 feet, bypasses the treacherous Sela Pass, promoting all-weather connectivity to Tawang and forward areas.

Construction Challenges Faced by Project Vartak

Project Vartak encountered numerous challenges during the Sela Tunnel construction, including freezing temperatures (-10°C), icicle formation inside the tunnel, water ingress, cavity formation, and disruptions due to COVID-19 protocols. Additionally, a cloud burst in July caused damage, necessitating resource reallocation for reconstruction.

Despite facing adversities, the Border Roads Organization (BRO) efficiently completed the Sela Tunnel in less than five years. Approximately 762 days had high snowfall or rainfall, and 832 days had temperatures below 0°C during the project’s timeline.

Key Features of Sela Tunnel System

The Sela Tunnel system comprises two tunnels of lengths 1,003 meters and 1,595 meters, with an adjacent escape tube for emergencies. Designed for a traffic density of 3,000 cars and 2,000 trucks per day, the tunnel allows a maximum speed of 80 km/h. It is equipped with safety features and a ventilation system, adhering to international standards.

The completion of the Sela Tunnel system reduces travel distance by over eight kilometers, saving an hour of travel time. It ensures all-weather connectivity, reinforcing India’s defense capabilities in the region. Furthermore, the tunnel is expected to spur economic prosperity, fostering trade, tourism, employment, and overall development in the Tawang region.

Constructed using the New Austrian Tunneling Method (NATM), the tunnel utilizes the inherent strength of the surrounding rock mass. Over 90 lakh man-hours, 650 personnel, and laborers working daily for five years contributed to this engineering marvel. The project involved significant quantities of materials, including 71,000 metric tonnes of cement, 5,000 metric tonnes of steel, and 800 metric tonnes of explosives.

The Sela Tunnel adheres to the highest quality standards, boasting a well-prepared quality assurance plan following IRC SP 91 and MoRTH guidelines. The tunnel integrates state-of-the-art safety features, a ventilation system, electro-mechanical systems, and SCADA-controlled monitoring systems.

After inaugurating the Sela Tunnel, Prime Minister Modi applauded the efforts of the BRO in providing last-mile connectivity to the border region. He commended the workers for constructing an engineering marvel in challenging terrain under extreme conditions.

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