Modi dedicates Atal Tunnel at Rohtang to the nation
Manali, October 3, 2020
Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated to the nation the Atal Tunnel, the world’s longest highway tunnel that connects Manali to Lahaul-Spiti Valley in Himachal Pradesh, at a function at its south portal in Manali today.
The 9.02-km-long tunnel will provide connectivity between Manali and Lahaul-Spiti Valley throughout the year. Earlier, the valley was cut off for about 6 months each year owing to heavy snowfall.
The tunnel is built in accordance with ultra-modern specifications in the Pir Panjal range of Himalayas at an altitude of 3000 metres (10,000 feet) from the Mean Sea Level (MSL).
The tunnel reduces the road distance by 46 km between Manali and Leh and travel time by about 4 to 5 hours.
It has state-of-the-art electromechanical systems including semi-transverse ventilation, SCADA controlled firefighting, illumination and monitoring systems. The tunnel has ample safety features built into it.
Modi travelled in the tunnel from the South Portal to the North Portal and also visited the emergency egress tunnel that was built into the main tunnel itself.
He also witnessed a pictorial exhibition on “The Making of Atal Tunnel” on the occasion.
In his address, the Prime Minister termed the day as historic as it not only fructifies the vision of the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee but also the decades-old wish and dream of people from the region.
Atal Tunnel will be a lifeline for a large part of Himachal Pradesh as well as the new Union Territory of Ladakh and would reduce the distance between Manali and Keylong by 3-4 hours.
Now, parts of Himachal Pradesh and Leh-Ladakh will remain connected throughout the year with the rest of the country and witness speedier economic progress, he added. Farmers, horticulturalists and youth will now also have easy access to Delhi and other markets.
The Prime Minister said such border connectivity projects will also aid the security forces in ensuring regular supplies and also in their patrolling.
He lauded the efforts of the engineers, technicians and workers who risked their lives in making this dream come true.
Atal tunnel will also give new strength to India's border infrastructure and be living proof of world-class border connectivity.
Despite the longstanding demand to improve the infrastructure and overall development of the border areas, plans were made only to languish for decades without any progress, he added.
He said Vajpayee laid the foundation of the approach road for this tunnel in 2002. After his government, the work was so neglected that only 1,300 metres, that is, less than 1.5 km of the tunnel could be built till 2013-14, around 300 metres each year.
Experts then explained that if it continued at that pace then the tunnel would be completed only in 2040.
Modi said his Government then fast-tracked the project and the construction went on at a speed of 1,400 metres each year. The project could be completed in 6 years where the estimate was 26 years.
Infrastructure should be developed at a fast pace when the country needs to progress economically and socially. This needs unflinching political will and commitment for the progress of the nation, he said.
He said the delay in the completion of such important and major infrastructure projects causes financial losses and deprives people of economic and social benefits.
In 2005, the estimated cost for the construction of the tunnel was about Rs 900 crores. But due to continuous delays, today it has been completed after spending more than three times the amount at Rs 3,200 crore.
The Prime Minister said several important projects were meted out the same treatment as the Atal Tunnel.
The strategically very important airstrip in Ladakh as Daulat Beg Oldi remained uncompleted for 40–45 years though the Air Force wanted an airstrip.
Work on the Bogibeel Bridge also started during Vajpayee's government but work on it languished later. The bridge provides key connectivity between Arunachal and the North East region. The work gained momentum after 2014 and was inaugurated about two years ago on the occasion of Vajpayee's birthday, he said.
Modi said Vajpayee also laid the foundation stone of Kosi Mahasetu to connect two major regions of Mithilanchal in Bihar. After 2014, the Government expedited the work of Kosi Mahasetu and the bridge was inaugurated a few weeks ago.
The Prime Minister said the situation had now changed and in the last six years the border infrastructure -- be it roads, bridges or tunnels -- is being developed with full impetus and great speed.
Taking care of the needs of the security forces of the country was one of the highest priorities of the government. But this was also compromised earlier along with the interests of the country's defence forces, he said.
He listed several initiatives of the Government to take care of the needs of the defence forces like implementation of One rank One pension scheme, procurement of a modern fighter plane, procurement of ammunition, modern rifles, bulletproof jackets, harsh winter equipment which was put on hold by the previous Government.
Major reforms such as relaxation of FDI in Defence manufacture have been made so as to produce modern weapons and ammunition in the country itself, he said.
Modi said reforms were initiated in the form of creation of the post of Chief of Defence Staff and establishing a better coordination in both procurement and production as per the requirements of the Defence forces.
To match the rising global stature of India, the country has to improve its infrastructure, its economic and the strategic potential at the same speed. The Prime Minister said the Atal Tunnel is a shining example of the country’s resolve to become Aatma Nirbhar (Self Reliant).
He travelled through the tunnel to participate in ‘Abhar Samaroh’ at Sissu, Lahaul and Spiti, in Himachal Pradesh. Addressing a gathering, he said while he was working as a "karyakarta" (worker) of the BJP, he could reach the place only by traversing the long route through Rohtang. The Rohtang pass used to remain closed during winters causing difficulties to the people of the region.
He noted that the 9.02 km tunnel resulted in a reduction of the travel distance of about 45-46 km. The lives of the people of the region were about to change due to the transformative impact of the tunnel. The tunnel will prove beneficial for a spectrum of people of Lahaul-Spiti and Pangi, including the farmers, people associated with horticulture and animal rearing, students, businessmen, and so on, he said.
It will prevent the farm produce of the region from getting ruined, by enabling it to reach markets quickly. It will help Chandramukhi potatoes of the region reach new markets and new buyers, he said.
The tunnel will also help herbal medicinal plants and spices grown in Lahaul-Spiti find new markets the world over.
Talking about the tremendous tourism potential of the region, Modi said a new dimension will now be added to Lahaul-Spiti as a confluence of ‘Dev Darshan’ and ‘Buddha Darshan’. It will now become easier for people all over the world to access Tabo Monastery in Spiti Valley.
The entire region will become a huge centre for Buddhists from East Asia and also from other countries across the world. Increased tourism will also open up several employment opportunities for the youth, he said.
He underlined that the Atal Tunnel symbolized the commitment of the government to ensure that the benefits of development reach out to each and every citizen. Earlier, Lahaul-Spiti and several other such areas were left to fend for themselves, since these regions could not fulfil the politically selfish desires of some people.
But the country was now working with new thinking and policies were not made on the basis of the number of votes, but the endeavour was to ensure that no Indian is left behind. Lahaul-Spiti is a big example of this change, as evident in it being one of those districts where the arrangement for “Har Ghar Pipe Se Jal” has been ensured, he added.
He reiterated the commitment of the government to make all basic necessary facilities available for the Dalits, the tribals the victims and the deprived. He listed the efforts of the government towards rural electrification, making available LPG gas connection, construction of facilities like toilets, treatment facilities through Ayushman Bharat Yojana. He also took the opportunity to exhort the people to take all precautionary steps to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic.