Manali/ New Delhi: PM Modi dedicated the World's longest Highway tunnel – Atal Tunnel to the nation on Saturday. The 9.02 Km long tunnel connects Manali to Lahaul-Spiti valley throughout the year. Earlier the valley was cut off for about 6 months each year owing to heavy snowfall. PM's inauguration took place at the south portal of the Atal tunnel in Manali. The Tunnel is built with ultra-modern specifications in the Pir Panjal range of Himalayas at an altitude of 3000 Mtrs (10,000 Feet) from the Mean Sea Level (MSL).
The tunnel reduces the road distance by 46 Kms between Manali and Leh and the time by about 4 to 5 hours.
Atal tunnel has state of the art electromechanical systems including semi transverse ventilation, SCADA controlled fire fighting, illumination and monitoring systems. The Tunnel has ample safety features built into it. PM 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 only fructifies the vision of the former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee but also the decades-old wish and dream of crores of people from the region. He said Atal Tunnel is going to be a lifeline for a large part of Himachal Pradesh as well as the new Union Territory of Leh-Ladakh and would reduce the distance between Manali and Keylong by 3-4 hours. "Now parts of ??Himachal Pradesh and Leh-Ladakh will always be connected with the rest of the country and would witness speedier economic progress. The farmers, horticulturalists and youth will now also have easy access to the capital of Delhi and other markets" he added. Congratulating BRO and the engineers for achieving the marvel feat of building the tunnel in the most difficult terrain of Pir Panjal ranges in Himachal PM said that the engineers must write about their experiences in the construction of the Atal tunnel. "It does not need to be printed, let it be digital" PM suggested saying their diaries or the memoirs will work as the guiding light for the younger engineers and college students for future constructions like this.
PM said that such border connectivity projects will also aid the security forces in ensuring regular supplies to them 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 is also going to give new strength to India's border infrastructure and would 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.
PM Modi said former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee laid the foundation of the approach road for this tunnel in 2002. He said after Atal Ji's government, the work was so neglected that only 1300 metres i.e less than 1.5 Kms of the tunnel could be built till 2013-14 i.e only about 300 metres each year.
Experts then explained that if it continued at that pace then the tunnel would be completed only in 2040. "The Government then fast-tracked the project and the construction went on at a speed of 1400 metres each year. The project could be completed in 6 years where the estimate was 26 years" PM said blaming the previous govt for the delay in Atal tunnel construction.
He said infrastructure should be developed at a fast pace when the country needs to progress economically and socially. Shri Modi said this needs unflinching political will and commitment for the progress of the nation. 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 3 times i.e. 3200 crore rupees, mentioned PM in his speech. He said many 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. The situation 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, he added.
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