Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday, 3 October inaugurated the Atal Tunnel beneath the Rohtang Pass in Himachal Pradesh. The PM inaugurated the strategically important all-weather tunnel, the world's longest highway tunnel.
The Atal Tunnel, which reduces the distance between Manali and Leh by 46 km and the travel time by four to five hours, is a 9.02 km-long tunnel. It will connect Manali with the Lahaul-Spiti Valley throughout the year. Earlier, the valley was cut off for about six months each year owing to heavy snowfall.
Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and Army Chief General MM Naravane are also present at the cermony, along with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
Project Was Stuck During Congress Regime: PM Modi
Addressing the event, PM Modi said that the Atal tunnel will give new strength to India's border infrastructure.
“It is an example of world-class border connectivity. There have been demands to improve border infrastructure but for a long time, such projects either couldn't get out of planning stage or got stuck midway,” he said.
PM Modi said that after Atal Bihari Vajpayee laid the foundation stone of the approach road of the tunnel in 2002, till 2013-2014, progress was made only on 1,300 meters of this tunnel.
“Many other important projects were treated in the same way as Atal tunnel. The strategically important Daulat Beg Oldi airstrip in Ladakh remained closed for 40–45 years. I don't want to go into details as to what was the helplessness and the pressure behind it,” he said.
Addressing teh event, Singh said that the tunnel is dedicated to the soldiers and citizens in the border areas.
“Border Roads Organisation completed construction of Atal Tunnel within its estimated cost of construction. This tunnel is dedicated to the soldiers guarding our borders & those living near border areas,” he said.
Himachal Pradesh CM Jai Ram Thakur said that the inauguration of the tunnel had put the state on the world map.
“After construction of this tunnel at the height of 10,040 feet, Himachal Pradesh, a small state, has got recognition not only in the nation but in the whole world. There is no other tunnel of this length at this height,” he said.
Key Features of the Tunnel
The tunnel is built with ultra-modern specifications in the Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas at an altitude of 3,000 metres (10,000 feet) above mean sea level.
The south portal of Atal Tunnel is located at a distance of 25 km from Manali at an altitude of 3,060 metres, while the north portal of the tunnel is located near Teling village in Sissu, Lahaul Valley, at an altitude of 3,071 metres.
It is a horseshoe-shaped, single tube double-lane tunnel with a roadway of 8 metres. It has an overhead clearance of 5.525 metres.
It is 10.5-metre wide and has a 3.6 x 2.25 metres fire-proof emergency egress tunnel built into the main tunnel itself.
The Atal Tunnel has been designed for a traffic density of 3,000 cars and 1,500 trucks per day with a maximum speed of 80 km per hour.
It has state-of-the-art electromechanical systems, including semi transverse ventilation system, SCADA-controlled firefighting, illumination and monitoring system.
The historic decision to construct a strategic tunnel below the Rohtang Pass was taken on 3 June, 2000 when the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister. The foundation stone for the access road to the south portal of the tunnel was laid on 26 May, 2002.
The Border Roads Organisation worked relentlessly to overcome major geological and climatic challenges, that included the most difficult stretch of the 587-metre Seri Nalah Fault Zone.
The breakthrough from both the ends was achieved on 15 October, 2017.
The Union Cabinet, under the chairmanship of Modi, had on 24 December last year decided to name the Rohtang Tunnel as Atal Tunnel to honour the contributions made by the former Prime Minister.
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