Strategically important Atal Tunnel in Himachal inaugurated by PM Modi
In what gives a major boost to India's infrastructure, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday inaugurated the strategically important Atal Tunnel in Himachal Pradesh. The over 9-km-long infrastructure marvel is the longest highway tunnel in the world and will drastically reduce travel time to and from Leh. Not only will the tunnel help frequent travelers, but also the armed forces. Here are more details.
What makes Atal Tunnel one of its kind?
The tunnel has been constructed at an altitude of 3,000 meter (10,000 feet) in the Himalayan range of Pir Panjal. It has been accorded horse-shoe shape and has an overhead clearance of 5.525 meter. It is single-tubed and double-laned. The daily traffic density is 3,000 cars and 1,500 trucks. All the vehicles can easily reach a maximum speed of 80 kmph.
Tunnel reduces travel time between Leh and Manali drastically
While the tunnel's South Portal (SP) is 25 km away from Manali, the North Portal (NP) is close to Teling village (3,071 meter) in Lahaul Valley. The all-weather tunnel reduces travel time by road between Leh and Manali by four-five hours. It cuts distance by 46 kilometer. To ensure safe travel, auto incident detection systems have been installed at every 250 meter.
Amid Indo-China conflict, Atal Tunnel gives upper hand to Army
Notably, the road route to Leh remains shut for six months due to weather conditions. The inauguration assumes significance as India is locked in a bitter spat with China. If the situation deteriorates, the Army can easily send more companies to LAC. The tunnel was initially named Rohtang Tunnel but PM Modi's government renamed it in honor of late PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Vajpayee had approved the project in 2000
It was Vajpayee's government that green-lit the tunnel's construction in 2000, and the foundation stone was laid in May 2002. The Border Roads Organization (BRO), which was tasked with the construction, defeated several challenges to complete the project. At the inauguration, PM Modi was accompanied by Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, CDS General Bipin Rawat, Army Chief General MM Naravane, and Himachal CM Jairam Thakur.
This ambitious project suffered for years: PM Modi
Speaking about the inordinate delay in the project, PM Modi lashed out at the Congress regime, saying Vajpayee's successors forgot about the tunnel. "The situation was that by the year 2013-14, only 1,300 meter of work for the tunnel was completed," he said. He said only Himachal's natives can understand what travel time reduction by even three or four hours means.
PM Modi explained why connectivity in border areas is crucial
"Atal Tunnel at Rohtang is going to be 'Sanjeevani Buti' for residents of Lahaul-Spiti especially during winters when the entire district gets covered under snow and road connectivity through Rohtang pass gets snapped. Connectivity in border areas is directly related to security issues," he explained.
National security should not be compromised with, said PM Modi
PM Modi also added that the Atal Tunnel will strengthen border infrastructure. "There have been demands to improve border infrastructure but for a long time, such projects either couldn't get out of the planning stage or got stuck midway," he stated. Saying that the tunnel will benefit both the masses and armed forces, PM Modi added that national security is paramount for his government.