Atal tunnel will give new strength to India’s border infrastructure, says PM Modi

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Atal Tunnel in Himachal Pradesh’s Rohtang on Saturday, which connects Solang Valley near Manali to Sissu in Lahaul and Spiti district. The Atal Tunnel will act as a lifeline not just for a big part of Himachal Pradesh but also for Ladakh, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi after inaugurating the tunnel here at Rohtang on Saturday.

“Atal Tunnel, apart from a big region in Himachal Pradesh, will also become a lifeline for the new union territory Ladakh. With this, Leh-Ladakh, and this big region of Himachal Pradesh will always stay connected with the other parts of the country, and will quickly move forward on the path to progress,” the Prime Minister said at the inaugration ceremony of the Atal Tunnel here.

“This tunnel will reduce the distance between Manali and Kelong by three to four hours. My brothers and sisters from the hills can understand the meaning of this,” he said.

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Terming it a historic day, Prime Minister Modi said that the wait of crores of Himachal residents has been completed along with the fulfilment of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s dreams with the tunnel’s inauguration.

“Today is a historic day, it’s not that just Atalji’s dreams have been fulfilled, but the over decades-long wait of crores of Himachal Pradesh’s residents has come to an end. I am fortunate that I got the opportunity to inaugurate the Atal Tunnel,” he said.

The PM further recounted that he had previously served in the region to look after the party’s organisational setup. He thanked and saluted all jawans, engineers, labourers who had risked their lives to ensure the completion of the tunnel.

The PM said that the tunnel will give India’s border infrastructure a new strength

“Atal Tunnel will give new strength to India’s border infrastructure. It is an example of world-class border connectivity. There have been demands to improve border infrastructure but for a long time, such projects either couldn’t get out of planning stage or got stuck midway. Connectivity has a direct connection with development. Connectivity in border areas is directly related to security,” he said.

He further added that the construction of the tunnel had been delayed once the former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government went out of power, replaced by the Congress-led UPA government.

“Atal Ji laid the foundation stone of approach road of this tunnel in 2002. Once his government went out of power, this job was most likely forgotten. Till 2013-2014, progress was made only on 1,300 meters of this tunnel. Experts say that if the pace of progress had continued at the same rate then the tunnel would have likely been completed by 2040. After 2014, the project progressed with unprecedented pace. Every problem which BRO faced was removed, as a result, while earlier every year 300 metre tunnel was being constructed, it was increased to 1,400 metre per year. We completed 26 years work in just six years,” the PM said.

Stressing that such delays in infrastructural make the country face losses every year, he said that not only does it keep the citizens deprived of facilities, but it also affects the country financially. While the initial estimation for completion of the tunnel was Rs 950 crores, it had been completed at a cost of over Rs 3,200 crores, at over three times the initial value, he said.

“Emphasis has been put on the development of border infrastructure. Its benefits are being extended to the common people as well as our armed forces personnel. There is nothing more important for us than protecting the country. But the country has also seen that a period when the defense interests of the country were compromised,” he said.

The PM further named several other key projects that were also delayed.

“The strategically important Daulat Beg Oldi airstrip in Ladakh remained closed for 40-45 years. I don’t want to go into details as to what was the helplessness and the pressure behind it. Much has been written and told about it, but it is true that the Air Force was able to start the airstrip because of its own interests, there was no political will in it,” he said, adding that he could enlist dozens of such strategically important projects were sidelined for years.

“Another bridge is associated with the name of Atal ji- the Kosi Mahasetu. It connects two portions of Bihar’s Mithilanchal region, it was inaugurated by Atalji only, but its work got delayed. In 2014 after coming to power we expedited work on the bridge. Just a few days earlier the inauguration of Kosi Mahasetu took place,” he said.

PM Modi inaugurates 9.02km Atal Tunnel connecting Manali to Lahaul-Spiti valley

Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister inaugurated the Atal Tunnel, which at 9.02 km is the longest highway tunnel in the world and connects Manali to Lahaul-Spiti Valley in Rohtang.

Chief Minister Jairam Thakur, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Minister of State (MoS) Anurag Thakur, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat and Army Chief General MM Naravane were also present at the ceremony, which was held shortly after 10 am.

The tunnel will ensure movement throughout the year. Earlier, the Valley was cut off for about six months each year owing to heavy snowfall. The tunnel reduces the road distance by 46 kilometres between Manali and Leh and the time by about four to five hours.

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