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Sonia Gandhi to lay Rohtang tunnel foundation Monday

New Delhi, June 25 (IANS) Congress president Sonia Gandhi will Monday lay the foundation stone of the 8.8-km-long horseshoe-shaped Rohtang tunnel, the longest in the world at over 13,000 feet altitude, giving wings to the promise her husband and then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi had made in 1984.

The Himalayan tunnel, under the Pir Panjal range will provide all-weather connectivity to the tribal area of Lahaul-Spiti valley, which remains cut off from Manali during winter months due to heavy snow on the 13,050-ft-high Rohtang Pass.

Hailed as an engineering wonder, the single-tube double lane tunnel is coming up under the Indian Army’s road building wing, Border Roads Organisation.

The Rohtang tunnel that is expected to reduce the distance of the Manali-Leh highway by about 46 km will be ready by 2015. It would also be strategically important for the Indian Army as the tunnel will serve as a vital link for carrying supplies to the Ladakh region that shares boundaries with China and Pakistan.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony, his deputy M.M. Pallam Raju, the chief ministers of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir – Prem Kumar Dhumal and Omar Abdullah, respectively – and Steel Minister Virbhadra Singh will be present at the foundation stone-laying ceremony.

The contract for the tunnel has been bagged by Austrian company Strabag and India’s Afcons.

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