Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur on Saturday visited the strategic Atal Tunnel, earlier known as Rohtang tunnel, constructed at an altitude above 10,000 feet with an outlay of Rs 3,500 crore. He said it would be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi next month.
The Chief Minister reviewed the progress work of the tunnel with officials of the Border Road Organisation (BRO), an official statement said.
He directed the BRO officials to expeditiously give final touch to the tunnel, so that it could be made ready for inauguration by Prime Minister Modi by the end of September.
The tunnel is extremely significant from the military logistics point of view, he added.
Thakur said the Prime Minister has shown keen interest in early completion of this mega project, which would not only be important from the strategic point of view, but would also give boost to tourism activities in Lahaul-Spiti district besides creating employment and self-employment avenues in the area.
He said that by cutting through the Pir Panjal range, the tunnel has reduced the distance between Manali and Leh by 46 km.
He said the Atal Tunnel would be a boon to the residents of Lahaul who remain cut off from the rest of the country for nearly six months in winters due to heavy snowfall.
The ambitious Atal Tunnel would provide all-weather connectivity to Leh and the forward areas of Ladakh.
The Chief Minister said that for all-weather connectivity up to Leh-Ladakh, additional tunnels would have to be built on the 475 km Manali-Leh route so that the high passes do not impede movement due to heavy snowfall.
A 13.2 km long tunnel would have to be built to negotiate the 16,040-feet high Baralacha Pass and another 14.78 km-long tunnel would be required at the Lachung La Pass at 16,800 feet and the third 7.32-km long tunnel would be required at Tanglang La Pass at 17,480 feet.
The Chief Minister said that snow galleries have also been built at the approach road to the Atal Tunnel from the Manali side, and this would ensure all-weather connectivity.
He said that bridges on the approach road to the tunnel from the north portal (on Lahaul side) and the south portal have also been completed.
Thakur said the tunnel has several user-friendly features which include an emergency escape tunnel that has been built under the main tunnel. This would provide an emergency exit in case of any untoward incident, which may render the main tunnel unusable.
While the tunnel was originally designed as 8.8 km long, fresh GPS readings taken by the BRO after the work on it was completed showed that it is 9 km in length.
It would be the world’s longest tunnel at an altitude of 10,000 feet.
Chief Engineer of BRO, Brig K.P. Purshothaman, assured the Chief Minister that the project would be completed within the stipulated time period.
He said the tunnel also provides telephone facility at every 150 metres, fire hydrant at every 60 metres, emergency exit at every 500 metres, turning cavern at every 2.2 km, air quality monitoring at every 1 km, and broadcasting system and automatic incident detection system with CCTV cameras at every 250 metres.