PM Modi hails Atal tunnel as new lifeline for Ladakh

3 October, 2020 | Ojasvi Chauhan

Narendra Modi National

The 9.02 km long Atal Tunnel which connects Manali to Lahaul-Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh has been formally inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Atal Tunnel here at Rohtang on Saturday. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat and Army Chief General MM Naravane were also present at the inauguration ceremony, which was held shortly after 10 am.

After inaugurating the tunnel, Prime Minister Modi addressed the nation. He said that Atal tunnel will give new strength to India’s border infrastructure, it is an example of world-class border connectivity. He added that 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.

PM said that connectivity has a direct connection with the development, connectivity in border areas is directly related to security issues. He said that Atal Ji laid the foundation stone of approach road of this tunnel in 2002, till 2013-2014, progress was made only on 1,300 meters of this tunnel. He added that after 2014, the project progressed with unprecedented pace.

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Himachal Pradesh CM Jai Ram Thakur said that after the 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. He added that there is no other tunnel of this length at this height.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said that Border Roads Organisation completed construction of Atal Tunnel within its estimated cost of construction. He said that this tunnel is dedicated to the soldiers guarding our borders & those living near border areas.

The Atal Tunnel, at 9.02 km is the longest highway tunnel in the world, connects Manali to Lahaul-Spiti Valley and will ensure movement throughout the year. Earlier, the Valley was cut off for about six months each year owing to heavy snowfall. The tunnel reduces the road distance by 46 kilometres between Manali and Leh and the time by about four to five hours.

The tunnel is built with ultra-modern specifications in the Pir Panjal range of Himalayas at an altitude of 3,000 metres (10,000 feet) from the Mean Sea Level (MSL). The Prime Minister also enquired about the construction process, layout and other details about the Tunnel from the Army officials present. Following this, Prime Minister Modi is scheduled to address a public gathering at Sissu, Lahaul Valley.

“This is a very proud moment not only for BRO but for the whole country. The hard work put in by BRO in the last 10 years is reaching the final stage. This tunnel is an example of Atmanirbhar Bharat,” Purushothaman told ANI.

The South Portal (SP) of Atal Tunnel is located at a distance of 25 km from Manali at an altitude of 3,060 metres, while the North Portal (NP) of the tunnel is located near village Teling, Sissu, in Lahaul Valley at an altitude of 3,071 metres.

It is horseshoe-shaped, single tube double lane tunnel with a roadway of eight metres. It has an overhead clearance of 5.525 metres. Also, 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.

“There are 18 egress tunnels where after every 500 metres there is an opening in case of emergency. If any fire incident happens so the first thing is how the people trapped are to be rescued. For that, there is an entry at every 500 metres. The tunnels are clearly marked and one can easily find out where is the egress tunnel,” Purushothaman said.

Atal Tunnel has been designed for traffic density of 3,000 cars per day and 1,500 trucks per day with a max speed of 80 km/hr. It has the state of the art electromechanical system including semi transverse ventilation system.

The tunnel has ample safety features built into it including telephone connections at every 150 metres for emergency communication, fire hydrant mechanisms at every 60 Metres, auto incident detection system with CCTV cameras at every 250 metres, air quality monitoring at every one Km, evacuation lighting/exit signs and broadcasting system throughout the tunnel among others.

Speaking to ANI, S Paramasivan, Managing Director, AFCONS, which was the main construction company for the tunnel, said it is of very great importance both from the national defence angle and also from the international arena because this is the longest tunnel at this altitude in the world.

The historic decision to construct a strategic tunnel below the Rohtang Pass was taken on June 3, 2000, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister. The foundation stone for the access road to the south portal of the tunnel was laid on May 26, 2002.

Officials said the BRO worked relentlessly to overcome major geological, terrain and weather challenges that included the most difficult stretch of the 587-metre Seri Nalah Fault Zone. The breakthrough from both ends was achieved on October 15, 2017.

The Union Cabinet decided in 2019 to name the Rohtang Tunnel as Atal Tunnel to honour the contribution made by the former Prime Minister. After attending the inauguration function of the Atal Tunnel at South Portal, Manali, PM Modi will also be participating in public functions at Sissu in Lahaul Spiti and at Solang Valley.

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