Centre has proposed a 15.6-km twin-tunnel under the mighty Brahmaputra river, which will not only protect the Kaziranga National Park by bypassing it but also benefit India strategically by cutting travel time between Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.
Each of the two tunnels will have two lanes for smooth flow of traffic and will be built 22 metres below the river bed. The total length of the project will be approximately 33 km, including the 15.6-km tunnel and 18-km approach roads to connect to the highway.
Owing to its strategic importance, the project has already been endorsed by the Directorate of Military Operations. India has been beefing up its road infrastructure along the borders, including in the Northeast to counter any challenge from neighbouring countries like China.
The proposed project will cost Rs 12,807 crore and is a greenfield alignment to provide a direct link between Gohpur on NH-52 and Numaligarh on NH-37 in Assam.
The link, which is part of the 315 km long NH-37 that connects Nagaon to Dibrugarh, will help bypass the Kaziranga belt that falls on this highway stretch.
The project will be funded entirely by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
Way back in 2008, when the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved the four-laning of NH-37, a decision was taken to have an alternate alignment to bypass Kaziranga National Park. The ministry took time to come up with a new alignment that didn’t fall on the way of the park.
Senior officials in the road ministry told ThePrint that the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corp. Ltd (NHIDCL), a fully owned company under the ministry, is preparing the Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the twin-tunnel.
“NHIDCL has submitted the draft geophysical study to the road ministry and the DPR is in advanced stage of preparation,” said a senior ministry official, who didn’t want to be named.
At a meeting chaired by Road Secretary Giridhar Armane on 1 September, NHIDCL was directed to prepare a draft note for the Cabinet Committee on Security after getting the project endorsed by the Ministry of Defence.
Senior road ministry officials told ThePrint that earlier, the Border Roads Organisation had planned another tunnel under the Brahmaputra but since the agency was yet to prepare the DPR, it was decided that NHIDCL should go ahead with its proposed project as its DPR was in advanced stage of preparation.
If the project gets cleared, it will be the second twin-tunnel that will be constructed under a river in India. Another twin-tunnel project, though not a road tunnel, is currently underway in Kolkata — a 10.8-km stretch of the East-West metro corridor under the Howrah.