| In full steam
Silchar, Nov. 28: The Union ministry of road transport and highways has finally approved the much delayed proposal of the Border Roads Organisation to build a reinforced concrete cut and cover tunnel on NH 44 near Sonapur hamlet on the Assam-Meghalaya boundary near Cachar district.
The tunnel, which will be built at a cost of Rs 117 crore, aims at preventing landslides and rock slips on this highway, linking the south Assam districts, Mizoram and Tripura with Meghalaya.
Frequent landslides on this highway during the monsoon, particularly since 1998, has often led to the closure of this lone road connectivity for the three states, thus crippling inter-state transportation and movement of passengers.
The proposal for building a tunnel on this highway was first mooted in 1999.
But the project got lost in bureaucratic delays and bungling.
Union minister for heavy industries and a Congress MP in the Lok Sabha from Cachar, Sontosh Mohan Dev, took the initiative for execution of the project.
He told mediapersons last night that the tunnel would be 120 metres long and eight metres wide. A 5-metre- high cushion would also be provided on the roof of the tunnel for preventing seepage of water through the tunnel onto the road below.
A source in the 42 Border Roads Task Force, which is in-charge of repairs and maintenance of the highway, said one special feature of this state-of-the-art tunnel would be four culverts.
He added that this would allow proper funnelling of the debris resulting from landslides, along with water from the slopes of the hills over the tunnel into the nearby gorges.
During construction of the tunnel, a diversion road by the side of the highway, equipped with cross drainage works, would also be built temporarily for smooth flow of traffic.
On an average, 1,500 vehicles ply along this highway through a network of hills which are too young and hence vulnerable to landslides during the monsoon.