Ganderbal, Nov 16: The incident of tunnel collapse in the Uttarkashi area of Uttarakhand on Sunday have raised concerns over safety measures in the under-construction tunnels in Jammu and Kashmir. However, the authorities and the tunnel construction agencies involved in these tunnel works have claimed that all the safety measures were well in place to avoid any such incidents.
They said that there are the least chances of any such incidents due to better rock quality in Kashmir.
The authorities said that regular tunnel monitoring exercises could also prevent such mishaps.
A portion of the under-construction tunnel in Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand being built between Silkyara and Dandalgaon on the Brahmakhal-Yamunotri National Highway caved in on Sunday morning.
According to the District Emergency Operation Centre, at least 40 labourers trapped inside the tunnel for over 24 hours were from Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha, Uttarakhand, and Himachal Pradesh.
The incident has raised concerns about the safety standards of the under-construction tunnels here where hundreds of workers and employees are looking for work.
Being constructed on the Srinagar-Leh Highway, the 14-km long strategically important Zojila Tunnel is under construction and the work is going on at a good pace.
The project site of Zojila Tunnel is located at the existing highway (NH-01) starting from Sonamarg (J&K) and ending at Minamarg (Ladakh) at an elevation ranging from 2700 metres to 3300 metres, making the 13.2 km Zojila Tunnel, the longest tunnel at this elevation in Asia.
“The present site location falls into seismic zone IV and all precautionary measures have been provisioned to safeguard the structures provisioned in the project,” officials said.
Another 6.5 km long Z Morh Tunnel is coming up near the Sonamarg area in Ganderbal district which is almost completed.
National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDCL) General Manager, V K Pandey told Greater Kashmir that all the safety standard measures were already in place for the Z Morh and Zojila Tunnel.
NHIDCL is a fully owned company of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, Government of India, entrusted to look after all the tunnel construction works.
Pandey said that the safety standard measures were put in place in advance after keeping all the aspects under consideration.
“The cause of the tunnel collapse in Uttarakhand is yet to be ascertained, however, one of the major causes can be the fragile rock quality,” he said. “The rock quality in Kashmir, particularly where the two tunnels are under construction is better compared to outside and this gives us immense comfort to carry the work without fearing about such mishaps.”
However, Pandey said that all the safety standard measures were already in place for any eventuality.
“Before starting the face excavation work, a rock strengthen test is made to give a sense of how to move forward,” he said. “Certain parameters are being ensured which can avoid any damage in the tunnel construction work.”
Pandey said that the portal stabilisation work was done before breaking the rocks during excavation work.
Talking to Greater Kashmir, the Project Head of the Zojila Tunnel Project Harpal Singh said that all safety measures were well in place.
He said that in a tunnel construction work within every 30 meters, instruments are installed which signal any fault or failure so that necessary resources are provided and incidents like cracks and
collapse are prevented.
Singh said that the regulator tunnel monitoring exercises were very important to ensure that such incidents are prevented.
He said that a few days ago, a meeting was called to review the progress and other safety measures about the under construction tunnel.
Singh said that they were in touch with the construction agency which was carrying out the work of the Uttarkashi Tunnel.
He said that this incident had taken place and they were ensuring that all the measures were reviewed and in place to avoid any such incidents in future.