By Ram Mani Dahal Hetauda, July 30: Considered as the first motorable tunnel of its kind in all of South Asia, the Churia Mai Tunnel is slated to get its long-overdue makeover. The underground passageway, which cuts through the Chure Range of hills leading from Hetauda to Bhimphedi and Amlekhgunj lies in a dilapidated state due to decades of disuse, lack of maintenance, and a series of earthquakes. Built over 104 years ago, the Province Government has finally woken up to the benefits of the tunnel. A brainchild of the civil engineer Brigadier General Dillijung Thapa, the historic 500m-long tunnel had taken a little over two years to build. The forgotten tunnel will now be reconstructed by the Transport Infrastructure Directorate (TID) under the Ministry of Physical infrastructure and Transport of Bagmati Province. Laying the foundation stone of the Churiya Mai Tunnel reconstruction work on Thursday, Bagmati Province’s Chief Minister Dormani Poudel expressed his commitment towards the protection of the historical infrastructure. “Envisioned over a century ago, the tunnel is still a revolutionary idea. Reconstructing it will help uplift trade and commerce as well as promote tourism in the area. The historic tunnel is sure to lure prospective travellers in the near future,” he said. Back in 1962, CM Poudel himself had travelled through the historic passageway en-route to Raxaul from Amlekhgunj. Now Poudel aims to upgrade the tunnel while also eyeing to expand settlements in Hetauda, and promote tourism. “A park in memory of late Tony Hagen will also be built along with other structures, and monuments,” he informed. Minister for Physical Infrastructure Development of Bagmati Province Rameshwor Phuyal has also stressed on the historic and strategic importance of Churiya Mai Tunnel. “Young generations are unaware of this magnificent structure, which was way ahead of its time. Academic institutions should add this tunnel in its curriculum,” he said. “The reconstruction project has officially commenced in coordination with the Department of Archaeology,” Phuyal added. The TID has reached an agreement with the construction company to rebuild and renovate the tunnel passage at an estimated cost of Rs. 3,613,878 (Rs. 3.613 million) by April next year. Present in the foundation laying ceremony, Mayor of Hetuada Sub-Metropolis Hari Bahadur Mahat also took to the podium to urge the construction company and concerned stakeholders to complete the reconstruction work within the stipulated time.