On Saturday Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the strategically vital all-weather Atal Tunnel, which decreases the distance between Manali and Leh by 46 km and the travel time by four to five hours at Himachal Pradesh’s Rohtang. The Atal Tunnel, built by the Border Roads Organisation, is the longest highway tunnel in the world.
Speaking at the inauguration, PM Modi said the completion of Atal Tunnel not only fulfilled the dreams of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee but put an end to the years of wait of the people of Himachal Pradesh.
“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,” PM Modi said.
Talking about the delay in the project under the previous government, he said that after Vajpayee’s tenure ended, it appeared that the project, too, was forgotten.
“In the year 2002, Atal Ji laid the foundation of Approach Road for this tunnel. After Atal Ji’s tenure ended, it appeared that this project was also forgotten. The situation was such that by the year 2013-14, only 1,300 meters of work was done for the tunnel,” Modi said.
The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government had decided to construct the strategically important tunnel below the Rohtang Pass on 3rd June 2000, and the foundation stone for the access road to the south portal of the tunnel was laid on 26th May 2002. The Modi government decided to name the Rohtang Tunnel as Atal Tunnel in December 2019 to honour the former prime minister who had passed away the previous year.
PM Modi said that it was after 2014, that the pace of the work on the Atal Tunnel was ramped up. “When you have to move on the path of development when the people of the country have a strong desire for development, then the pace has to be increased. Atal Tunnel work also accelerated after 2014.”
The prime minister added that as a result, where previously 300-meters of the tunnel was being built every year, its speed was increased to 1,400 meters per year. “In just 6 years, we have completed 26 years of work,” PM Modi said.
Modi was accompanied by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat.
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The 9.02-km tunnel connects Manali to Lahaul-Spiti valley throughout the year, the Prime Minister’s Office has said, noting that the valley was earlier cut off for about six months every year due to heavy snowfall.