Atal tunnel will provide all-weather connectivity to the troops stationed in Ladakh

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday inaugurated a strategically important tunnel, named after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee at Rohtang in Himachal Pradesh. The tunnel which connects Solang Valley near Manali to Sissu in Lahaul and Spiti district is 9.02-km long and has been built at an altitude of 3,000 metres.

It will remain open throughout the year, thereby giving the residents of the Lahaul and Spiti valley who remain cut off from the rest of the country in winter for nearly six months due to heavy snowfall, a much needed relief. It will also provide all-weather connectivity to the troops stationed in Ladakh.

During the inauguration of the tunnel, Prime Minister Modi was accompanied by Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and Army Chief General MM Naravane.

Built at the cost of Rs 3200 crore, the tunnel reduces the road distance by 46 km between Manali and Leh and the travel time by about four to five hours. It has been built with ultra-modern specifications in the Pir Panjal Range of the Himalayas.

The single tube double lane tunnel with a roadway of 8 metres and an overhead clearance of 5.525 metres is horse-shoe shaped and has been designed for a traffic density of 3,000 cars per day and 1,500 trucks per day with a maximum speed of 80 km/hr.

Other features of the tunnel include an emergency escape tunnel under the main tunnel. This would provide an emergency exit in case of any untoward incident which may render the main tunnel unuseable.

The tunnel also provides a telephone every 150 metres, fire hydrant every 60 metres, emergency exit every 500 metres, turning cavern every 2.2 km, air quality monitoring every one km, broadcasting system and automatic incident detection system with CCTV cameras every 250 metres.

Launching the tunnel, the Prime Minister said, “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 the planning stage or got stuck midway. Connectivity has a direct connection with development. Connectivity in border areas is directly related to security issues.”

“Atal Ji laid the foundation stone of the approach road of this tunnel in 2002. Till 2013-2014, progress was made only on 1,300 meters of this tunnel. After 2014, the project progressed with unprecedented pace. In just six years, we completed the work of 26 years,” the Prime Minister maintained.

“Emphasis has been put on the development of border infrastructure. Its benefits are being extended to the common people as well as our armed forces personnel. There is nothing more important for us than protecting the country. But the country has also seen a period when the defense interests of the country were compromised,” he added.

“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 reason for the helplessness and the pressure behind it,” he said.