Sela tunnel

Sela tunnel

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In the news

The Prime Minister is set to inaugurate the strategically vital Sela Tunnel project during his one-day visit to Arunachal Pradesh.

About the Tunnel

  • Construction Details: The Sela Tunnel, constructed at a cost of ₹825 crore by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), is situated at an altitude of 13,700 feet in the West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Strategic Importance: Being the country's highest tunnel, it holds immense strategic significance by providing all-weather connectivity to the crucial Tawang region and other forward areas bordering China near the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
  • Travel Time Reduction: The tunnel is set to significantly reduce travel time from Tezpur to Tawang by more than one hour. This reduction is particularly significant as travellers will no longer have to contend with the dangers of navigating the treacherous snow-covered Sela Pass, situated at the same altitude as the tunnel.
  • Safety and Convenience: Travellers will benefit from enhanced safety and convenience, as they can avoid the hazardous conditions of Sela Pass, mitigating risks associated with weather-related disruptions and ensuring smoother transportation.



  • Location: Tawang is a town and administrative headquarters situated in the Tawang district of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. It lies along NH-13, a section of the Trans-Arunachal Highway, facilitating connectivity to the region.
  • Historical Capital: Tawang was once the capital of the Tawang Tract, which has since been divided into the Tawang district and the West Kameng district. It remains the headquarters of the former, retaining its administrative importance.
  • Tourist Destination: Regarded as the premier tourist destination of Arunachal Pradesh, Tawang attracts visitors with its natural beauty, cultural richness, and historical significance.
  • Occupation and Dispute: India occupied Tawang in 1951, removing Tibetan administration from the area. However, China continues to assert its claim over Tawang, considering it part of its territorial region.
  • Geographical Setting: Tawang is situated approximately 448 km northwest of the state capital, Itanagar, at an elevation of around 3,048 meters (10,000 feet) above sea level. It lies north of the Tawang Chu river valley, about 10 miles (16 km) south of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.
  • Cultural and Religious Significance: Tawang is renowned for its Gelugpa Buddhist Monastery, a prominent site of Buddhist worship and pilgrimage. The monastery holds cultural and spiritual importance, attracting devotees and tourists alike.

About the Project 

  • Record-breaking Length: The Sela Tunnel project boasts the title of being the world's longest twin-lane tunnel constructed at an altitude exceeding 13,000 feet. This remarkable feat showcases India's engineering prowess in challenging terrains.
  • Tunnel Composition: The project consists of two main components:-
    • Tunnel 1: This section comprises a 980-meter-long single tube tunnel, providing a crucial passage through the mountainous terrain.
    • Tunnel 2: Spanning a length of 1,555 meters, Tunnel 2 is designed as a twin tube tunnel, featuring one bi-lane tube for regular traffic flow and an additional escape tube dedicated to emergency situations. This innovative design prioritizes safety and ensures uninterrupted traffic flow even during contingencies.
  • Infrastructure Integration: Apart from the tunnels themselves, the project includes the construction of supporting infrastructure:-
    • Approach Road: A seven-kilometer-long approach road leading to Tunnel 1, branching off from the BCT Road, facilitating seamless access to the tunnel entrance.
    • Link Road: Connecting Tunnel 1 to Tunnel 2, this 1.3-kilometer link road streamlines connectivity within the tunnel system, optimizing traffic flow and operational efficiency.

About the Connectivity

  • Existing Routes: Currently, there are two primary routes linking Tezpur and Tawang: the Balipara-Chariduar-Tawang (BCT) route and the Orang-Kalaktang-Shergaon-Rupa-Tenga (OKSRT) route. These routes converge at Sela Pass before continuing as a single route to Tawang.
  • Planned Alternatives: There are plans underway to construct two alternate routes to Tawang, one of which is still in the planning stages. This initiative aims to enhance connectivity and resilience in the region.
  • Major Passes: The operational Tezpur to Tawang route encompasses three major passes: Nechiphu, Bomdila, and Sela. While the road via Bomdila remains accessible throughout the year, Nechiphu often experiences foggy conditions, and Sela is prone to snow, leading to occasional closures and disruptions, particularly affecting access to Tawang.

Sela Tunnel: the Engineering Marvel

  • Strategic Connectivity: The Sela Tunnel stands as an engineering marvel, heralding a new era of all-weather connectivity to Tawang via the Balipara-Chariduar-Tawang Road in Arunachal Pradesh. Its construction represents a significant leap forward in overcoming the geographical challenges posed by the formidable Sela Pass.
  • Innovative Construction Methods: Employing the state-of-the-art Austrian Tunnelling Method, the tunnel has been meticulously crafted with precision and efficiency. This advanced methodology ensures optimal tunnel construction, maximizing safety and durability while minimizing environmental impact.
  • Safety Standards: The project incorporates safety features of the highest standards, prioritizing the well-being of commuters and ensuring safe passage through the tunnel under all circumstances. These measures underscore the commitment to engineering excellence and the protection of human life.
  • Strategic Importance: Beyond its engineering prowess, the Sela Tunnel holds paramount strategic significance for the nation. It not only provides a faster and more efficient transportation route within the region but also serves as a vital lifeline, guaranteeing uninterrupted all-weather connectivity to Tawang, a region of immense strategic importance.

Milestone Events of the Project

  • Foundation Stone Laying: The foundation stone of the project was ceremoniously laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 9, 2019, marking the commencement of this transformative endeavor.
  • Excavation Commencement: Following the first blast on January 15, 2021, excavation work on Tunnel 1 commenced, marking a crucial milestone in the project's progress.
  • Breakthrough Blast: On October 14, 2021, a breakthrough blast was conducted for the 1,555-meter-long Tunnel This landmark event, commemorated through an e-ceremony led by the Defence Minister from India Gate, symbolized the successful culmination of excavation efforts for Tunnel 2.

Strategic Significance of the New Sela Tunnel 

  • Addressing Infrastructure Disparities: Historically, the lack of motorable roads and rail connections in Arunachal Pradesh presented a strategic disadvantage for India compared to China along the border in the northeast. China's development of infrastructure, including access roads up to the Indian border, provided it with a significant strategic advantage.
  • Enhanced Connectivity Initiatives: Over recent years, the Union government has prioritized improving infrastructure connectivity in the northeast, with the establishment of new airports and railway connections. Projects like the Sela Tunnel play a crucial role in this initiative, bolstering strategic connectivity in the region.
  • Strategic Access to Tawang: The Sela Tunnel project provides all-weather connectivity to the Tawang region, which holds strategic significance due to its contested status with China, which claims it as part of its ancient territory. By ensuring reliable access to this region, India strengthens its territorial integrity and defensive capabilities.
  • Military Equipment Accessibility: The design of both tunnels facilitates the seamless passage of military equipment, including large artillery pieces like Bofors guns, tanks like the T-90, and Vajra howitzers, throughout the year. This not only improves logistical efficiency but also enhances readiness and response capabilities along the border.
  • Securing Traffic Movement: By redirecting traffic through the tunnel, the Sela Tunnel project mitigates the risk of Chinese surveillance and monitoring of military movements. Unlike the exposed Sela Pass, which is visible to the Chinese, the tunnel provides a discreet and secure route, safeguarding sensitive military operations and troop movements.
  • Part of Larger Infrastructure Push: The construction of the Sela Tunnel aligns with the government's broader infrastructure push in the Northeast, aimed at strengthening both offensive and defensive capabilities along India's borders with China. This concerted effort underscores India's commitment to bolstering its strategic posture and ensuring territorial integrity in the region.


The inauguration of the Sela Tunnel marks a significant milestone in India's infrastructure development efforts, particularly in the strategically vital region of Arunachal Pradesh. By providing all-weather connectivity to Tawang and other forward areas near the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the tunnel not only reduces travel time and enhances safety for commuters but also strengthens India's defensive capabilities along the border with China. Moreover, the innovative engineering and strategic planning behind the project underscore India's commitment to overcoming infrastructure disparities and bolstering its position in the region. The Sela Tunnel stands as a testament to India's resolve in ensuring territorial integrity and fostering socio-economic development in the northeastern frontier.