Shimla, Oct 3 : Border Roads Organization ( BRO ) constructed 9.02 km long Atal - Rohtang Tunnel, which connects Manali with Lahaul - Spiti Valley was inaugurated by PM Narendra Modi on Oct 3. Since the tunnel is an important project for the nation regarding civil affairs, security and tourism as well, a virtual inauguration was particularly avoided and an actual visit to the tunnel was planned for inauguration by PM Modi including Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, Director General Border Roads ( DGBR ) Lt. Gen Harpal Singh and Himachal Pradesh CM Jairam Thakur.
The tunnel is constructed above the elevation of 10,000 ft and initially was estimated be 8.8 km long. However, the design of the tunnel was redirected to a horseshoe - shaped design in order to sustain avalanche and similar disasters which elongated the distance to 9.02km. The tunnel will facilitate a reduction of 46 km distance between Leh and Manali. In the prior conditions, the Spiti valley region would remain isolated during the winter due to heavy rainfall, cutting out the access entire Leh region to Himachal Pradesh. The locals, therefore, had to face serious problems for almost half of the year. The same reason had become a potential obstacle in case of logistical support provided to the armed forces at the LAC. Both of these issues will be tackled dominantly henceforth.
The tunnel has been constructed for a traffic density of 1500 trucks and 3000 cars for a day with a maximum speed limit of 80 km/hr. Besides the main tunnel, a 3.6 x 2.5 m fireproof exit in case of any kind of emergency. The tunnel is well equipped with infrastructure facilities like telephone connections at every 150 meters, fire hydrating mechanisms at every 60 meters, CCTV monitoring, Air quality monitoring and also key safety features of evacuation lighting and exit signs at every 25 meters. An emergency tunnel, to provide safety to people in case of emergency when the long tunnel may be blocked due to any kind of mishap, has been constructed exactly under the main tunnel.
Considering the strategic importance of the road to border security and the complications of construction in a geologically vulnerable zone, the responsibility of the tunnel was headed by BRO in 2010. The original deadline of the project was 2015 but the natural vulnerability of the place created excess complications for the construction extending the project completion in 2020. The project is located in the Pir Panjal ranges which is a natural fault zone, and had possessed a huge challenge for engineers during the project completion.
PM Modi made it a note to mention that the idea of the tunnel was conceived by Former PM Late Atal Bihari Vajpeyee and making the dream become a reality in his term was overwhelming. The foundation stone of the project was laid by Former PM Late A B Vajpeyee in 2002 at the South Portal. The idea had been there right in front of the prior governments but none of them prioritized the work and if the same pace would have continued then we might had to witness the completion of Atal - Rohtang Tunnel Project in 2040, said PM Modi. Himachal Pradesh as well as Ladakh have been kept at a bay from development but the condition would not persist for a longer period. This tunnel itself will provide vital aid for the people of Himachal and Centrally administered UT of Ladakh.
After the inauguration PM Modi himself travelled from South Portal of the tunnel in Manali to the North Portal Leh. The completion of such significant project will prove vital amidst the rising tensions at the LAC between Indian army and Chinese PLA.