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Nitin Gadkari to preside over final blasting of India’s longest tunnel on Monday

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Source: http://www.thehindu.com
Source: http://www.thehindu.com

New Delhi, July 12 (IANS): India’s longest road tunnel — under the Pirpanjal range in Jammu and Kashmir, will on Monday see its final blasting ceremony in the presence of union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari, an official statement here said.

The ceremony will take place when engineers of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) will blast a hole through the final section of the tunnel between Chenani and Nashri, near Patni Top.

“The road is likely to be opened to traffic in July next year. Work on the tunnel was started on May 23, 2011. The tunnel, connecting Chenani in Udhampur with Nashri in Ramban district, is being completed at a cost of over Rs.2,500 crore” the Road Transport and Highways Ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

The 9.2 km tunnel, a part of the ambitious 286 km four-laning of the Jammu-Srinagar national highway, will not only reduce the distance between the two cities of Jammu and Srinagar by around 30 km, it will also provide an all-weather road between the two capitals of the northern Indian state, the statement said.

After the tunnel road is opened, travelers will no longer suffer traffic snarls on National Highway-1A following rock-falls, landslides, and heavy snowfall, to which this road section is susceptible.

“The state-of-the-art tunnel is simultaneously being built from the two ends and the NHAI teams will meet at the centre by drilling a hole through the final section,” it added.

The NHAI is also constructing a parallel escape tunnel along with the main tunnel for evacuation of commuters in any eventuality.

“The two tubes of the tunnel will be internally connected through 29 “cross-passages”, each after a gap of 300 meters, and the escape tunnel will exclusively be used for pedestrians. There is a provision for ventilation keeping in view the length of the tunnel,” the statement said.

The project will also have parking bays at specific distances to enable towing away or shifting of vehicles in the case of vehicular breakdown.

Next Story

Does India’s Giant Step in the Direction of Green Energy Signal an End to Coal?

Coal consumption forecasts have already been downgraded significantly from 2013 projections, and major shifts in energy policy like Modi’s are likely to add significant weight to the idea that India might well become a much bigger player in renewable energy production in the next 20 to 30 years

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FILE - Smoke billows from chimneys of the cooling towers of a coal-fired power plant in Dadong, Shanxi province, China. VOA

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government announced its target to increase India’s renewable energy capacity to an equivalent of 40% of the nation’s total green energy output, it raised eyebrows. Could this mean an end to India’s coking coal industry?

Is there investment for green energy?

For any alternative to coal to be a serious consideration, there must be investment sources. Already India’s renewable target has attracted investors like Japan’s SoftBank, which agreed to a deal to sell power generated from a Northern Indian solar bank at 2.4 rupees per unit – below that of coal power, which currently costs over 3 rupees per unit.

Contrary to the enormous investment in the production of solar panels being manufactured by China, which has made them cheap enough to encourage this Indian growth in solar renewable energy, there has been relatively little investment in Indian coal.

Asia-Pacific
Workers operate machines at a coal mine at Palaran district in Samarinda, Indonesia (VOA)

For instance, state-run NTPC has cancelled several large coal mining projects, including a huge plant in Andhra Pradesh. Meanwhile, the private sector has continued investing in renewables. Adani Power has over $600 million invested in solar panels in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.

That Modi has made an investment of $42 billion in the renewable energy sector over the past four years and his renewables plan is likely to generate a further $80 billion in the green energy sector in the next four years is good news for the Rupee. External investment in India is likely a sign of increased currency transaction in forex trading signalling the Rupee gaining strength against other pairs. Like the Indian economy, millions of dollars are traded on currencies every day, and increased interest in the Rupee helps cement India’s economic and investment potential.

How reliant is India on coal power?

Not so long ago the Indian government had a target to connect 40 million households to the national grid by the end of 2018. It even tasked CIL, the state coal monopoly, to produce over a billion tonnes of coal per year by 2020, an increase of almost 100% from 2016. It’s an ambitious goal, notwithstanding the environmental impacts of mining for such an unprecedented amount of coal. This is the same coal that already generates 70% of India’s primary commercial energy requirement; compare that figure to the UK’s 11%, Germany’s 38%, and China’s 68%, while France has practically shut all of its coal power stations. This means that India’s shift from coal could have important implications for the global climate, and any investors looking towards coal would be making a very brave and risky decision.

Coal
Environmentally, coal isn’t a sustainable source of power, certainly not in current quotas.

The increasing problem with relying on coal

Environmentally, coal isn’t a sustainable source of power, certainly not in current quotas. Clean-up costs could make coal an out-of-date power source sooner rather than later. A report by Oxford University estimated that investors in coal power may lose upwards of half a trillion dollars because assets cannot be profitably run or retired early due to global temperature rises and agreed carbon emission reductions.

Also Read- Oral Antifungal Drug Linked to Risk of Miscarriage

Coal consumption forecasts have already been downgraded significantly from 2013 projections, and major shifts in energy policy like Modi’s are likely to add significant weight to the idea that India might well become a much bigger player in renewable energy production in the next 20 to 30 years – although it’s difficult not to see coal remaining an important power source considering India’s significantly large coal reserves still available in Eastern India.