NEWS ATAL TUNNEL
NEW DELHI: The highest-altitude tunnel, built in Rhotang, Himachal Pradesh, as part of the efforts to strengthen border defence in the Ladakh region, has been opened. The over nine km-long tunnel is situated on the Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas at an altitude of 3000metres from the sea level. The tunnel has been named after former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened the tunnel on Saturday morning. Strategically important, the tunnel links Manali to Lahaul Spiti and has been built to be operational for all seasons of the year. So far, the highway linking the two areas remained closed for half the year due to snowfall and other weather-related problems. The PM said the new tunnel will give new strength to the nation’s border security and will also help the people of the region enjoy transport facilities for all times of the year, unlike in the past when the season of snow halted traffic for months on end.
The tunnel project was conceived in year 1990 and the decision on this taken in year 2000. The foundation stone was laid in2002 during the term of the Vajpayee-led BJP government. The UPA government which came to power in 2004 did not take the matter seriously though it started the work by year 2010, and the work reached its conclusion by now through a major push by the Modi government.
The digging had been started in 2010 from both ends, and the two converged in between on October 15, 2017.
The tunnel has a traffic density of upto 3,000 cars and 1,500 trucks a day. The speed has been regulated at 80km per hour. There are telephone links at every 150metre distance and CCTV cameras have been placed at every 250metre distance.
The tunnel reduces the distance between Manali and Leh by nearly 50km and time for travel by four to five hours. Quicker movement of army vehicles will give the Indian army a special advantage in the region, where China is out to create troubles.
For safety, the tunnel has an entry-exit point at every 500 metres.
Chief Engineer of Border Roads Organisation which executed the work under tiring situations, KP Purushothaman, said this was a proud moment for all. –IHN-NN
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