Continuing efforts to save the 41 workers stuck in the under-construction tunnel that collapsed in Uttarakhand a week ago, the authorities are attempting to build a vertical rescue tunnel, and the first machine for this has already reached the site. A major breakthrough was achieved on Monday when National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) completed the drilling of another six-inch diameter pipeline for the supply of food, medicines, and other essential items.
On November 12, a collapse occurred in an under-construction tunnel from Silkyara to Barkot due to muck falling in a 60-metre stretch on the Silkyara side of the tunnel. After the incident, the authorities mobilised resources immediately for the rescue of the 41 trapped workers.
In a statement, the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH) said on Monday that horizontal boring by NHIDCL from the Silkyara end for the rescue of workers through the Auger boring machine was scheduled to recommence in the evening.
“The first machine of SJVNL (Sutlej Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited) for the construction of the vertical rescue tunnel has already reached the site and operations are being commenced post-completion of the access road by BRO. Movement of two other machines for the vertical tunnel construction started from Gujarat and Odisha through road,” the statement reads.
The ministry also said that work on the construction of a rescue tunnel of 480 metres from the end by THDC has commenced and machinery for micro-tunneling by RVNL through horizontal drilling for the rescue of labourers is being transported from Nashik and Delhi.
“Machinery for vertical boring is being mobilised by ONGC from USA, Mumbai and Ghaziabad. BRO has done a commendable work when approach road for vertical drilling of RVNL and SJVNL has been constructed within 48 hours. Further, now work is continuing for approach road for ONGC also,” says the statement.
Food and electricity supply
The authorities are keeping constant communication and making all efforts to keep up the morale of the workers trapped in the 2-km-built tunnel portion. This 2-km portion of the tunnel is complete, including concrete work that provides safety to the workers.
Electricity and water are available in this portion of the tunnel and workers are provided food items and medicines through a 4-inch compressor pipeline.
On Monday, a major breakthrough was achieved when NHIDCL completed the drilling of another 6-inch-diameter pipeline for the supply of food, medicines, and other essential items. Further, RVNL is working on another vertical pipeline for the supply of essential items.
“Various government agencies have been involved in the rescue operation and have been assigned specific tasks. These agencies are working tirelessly for the safe evacuation of the workers,” the ministry said.
As part of the Char Dham Mahamarg Pariyojana, the ministry has taken up the construction of the 4.5-km-long two-lane bi-directional tunnel at Silkyara to join the Gangotri and Yamunotri axis under the Radi pass in Uttarakhand and sanctioned for a total project cost of Rs 1,383 crore in March 2018.
The construction of the tunnel will ease the journey for pilgrims as it will provide all-weather connectivity and reduce a 25.6-km snow-affected length of NH-134 (Dharasu-Barkot-Yamunotri road) to 4.5 km, resulting in the reduction of travel time to five minutes from 50 minutes at present.
“The work is delayed with present progress of work at 56% and likely to be completed by May 2024. At present heading in about 4,060 m – 90% length is completed and excavation work for 477 m length is going on along with other activities of benching of heading done portion,” the ministry said.
Heading is done up to 2,350 m from the Silkyara side and up to 1,710 m from the Barkot side. Navayuga Engineering Company Limited is undertaking the project and the work commenced in July 2018 with intended completion by July 2022.