Prime Minister Narendra Modi is all set to inaugurate the newly built Atal Tunnel connecting Manali with Leh on October 3. The construction of the Atal Tunnel, which is the world's longest highway tunnel above 10,000 feet, saw a completion during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur confirmed the date of inauguration to Outlook.
He said, “As per information received from the PMO, PM Narendra Modi will attend the inauguration ceremony of the Rohtang Tunnel, named after former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, on October 3”.
Thakur also informed that the state government has started preparing for the Prime Minister’s visit, and also for a public meeting that he is going to address. All necessary social distancing norms will be observed during the event. Yet we will keep other options open if the Prime Minister decides to perform the ceremony through video conferencing.
“State’s Chief Secretary Anil Khachi is working out all the modalities and the district administrations at Kullu and Lahaul-Spiti have been alerted. The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has given its go-ahead and is giving the last minute touches to the tunnel”, he informed.
The Rohtang Tunnel was the dream project of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who wanted to lay down an alternate all weather connectivity between Manali and Leh. The tunnel’s construction began in 2010 though Vajpayee had given approval in June 2000.
The Rohtang Tunnel is strategically important in view of the growing tension in the Ladakh region which borders China. India has already reinforced the deployments after the conflict escalated and both Indian and Chinese troops indulged in a physical combat in the Galwan valley.
The tunnel, which will cut short the distance between Mnali and Leh by 46 km, is built at a cost of Rs 3500 Crore by the BRO using some of the advanced engineering technologies. The tunnel will have all emergency systems, traffic mobility and an emergency tunnel right below the main traffic tunnel for use during emergencies.
The tribal district of Lahaul-Spiti which remains cut off for six months due to heavy snowfall at Rohtang Pass, is expected to benefit from the tunnel’s construction.
“Our economy is going to see a big boost and tourism will flourish in the areas creating new job avenues and livelihood means for the people of the area”, says Dr Ram Lal Markanda, local MLA and minister for tribal affairs.
Brigadier K P Purushothaman who is the Chief Engineer said, “This is the world's longest tunnel having been built-up at a height of 10,171 feet. The people of Lahaul-Spiti will be immediate beneficiaries. They will get an all-weather connectivity throughout the year as they had spent years of isolation during the winters due to snowfall and closure of the Rohtang Pass.
“The tunnel is all set for its inauguration by honourable Prime Minister as all installations of electro-mechanic fittings, Intelligent Traffic Control Systems, ventilation, road surface works, and lighting etc. has been done along with the construction of two gates at the south (Kullu) and North portals (Lahaul Spiti),and washing of the tunnel”.