Manali (Himachal Pradesh) [India], October 2 (ANI): Prime Minister Narendra Modi will on Saturday inaugurate Atal Tunnel in Rohtang, which is the highest altitude tunnel in the world and has strategic significance.
The 9.02 km long tunnel will connect Manali to Lahaul-Spiti valley throughout the year. Earlier the road remained impacted for about six months every year owing to snowfall.
The tunnel is built 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).
It reduces the road distance by 46 km between Manali and Leh and the time by about four to five hours.
KP Purushothaman, Chief Engineer, Border Roads Organisation said the hard work by BRO in these many years has paid off and it is a very proud moment for everyone.
"This is very proud moment not only for BRO but the whole country. The hard work put in by BRO in the last 10 years is reaching the final stage. This tunnel is an example of Atmanirbhar Bharat," Purushothaman told ANI.
The South Portal (SP) of Atal Tunnel is located at a distance of 25 km from Manali at an altitude of 3,060 metres, while the North Portal (NP) of the tunnel is located near village Teling, Sissu, in Lahaul Valley at an altitude of 3,071 Metres.
It is horseshoe-shaped, single tube double lane tunnel with a roadway of 8 metres. It has an overhead clearance of 5.525 metres.
Also, it is 10.5-metre wide and has a 3.6 x 2.25 metres fire-proof emergency egress tunnel built into the main tunnel itself.
"There are 18 egress tunnels where after every 500 metres there is an opening in case of emergency. If any fire incident happens so first thing is how the people trapped are to be rescued. For that there is an entry at every 500 metres. The tunnels are clearly marked and one can easily find out where is the egress tunnel," Purushothaman said.
Atal Tunnel has been designed for traffic density of 3000 cars per day and 1,500 trucks per day with max speed of 80 km/hr. It has the state of the art electromechanical system including semi transverse ventilation system.
The tunnel has ample safety features built into it including telephone connections at every 150 metres for emergency communication, fire hydrant mechanisms at every 60 Metres, auto incident detection system with CCTV cameras at every 250 metres, air quality monitoring at every one Km, evacuation lighting/exit signs and broadcasting system throughout the tunnel among others.
Speaking to ANI, S Paramasivan, Managing Director, AFCONS, which was the main construction company for the tunnel, said it is of very great importance both from the national defence angle and also from the international arena because this is the longest tunnel at this altitude in the world.
The historic decision to construct a strategic tunnel below the Rohtang Pass was taken on June 3, 2000 when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister.
The foundation stone for the access road to the south portal of the tunnel was laid on May 26, 2002.
Officials said the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) worked relentlessly to overcome major geological, terrain and weather challenges that included the most difficult stretch of the 587-metre Seri Nalah Fault Zone. The breakthrough from both ends was achieved on October 15, 2017.
The Union Cabinet decided in 2019 to name the Rohtang Tunnel as Atal Tunnel to honour the contribution made by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
After attending the inauguration function of the Atal Tunnel at South Portal, Manali, the Prime Minister will be participating in public functions at Sissu in Lahaul Spiti and at Solang Valley.
BJP national president JP Nadda will not be attending the inaugural ceremony of the 'Atal Tunnel' as he has to hold meetings scheduled to discuss the upcoming Bihar elections 2020. (ANI)