#GS3 #Infrastructure & Development
The Atal Tunnel at Rohtang, near Manali, is a 9-km-long tunnel under the Pir Panjal range, named after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, will be the world’s longest highway tunnel above the altitude of 10,000 feet.
- A feasibility study of the project Rohtang Tunnel was carried out in May 1990 following which the geological report was submitted in June 2004. This was followed by a design and specification report which was prepared and finalised in December 2006.
- Border Roads Organisation (BRO) officials say the project received final technical approval in 2003. Following approval by Cabinet Committee on Security in 2005, tenders were floated in 2007 and the foundation stone was laid in July 2010 by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.
- The project was scheduled to be completed by February 2015 but it got delayed due to unexpected problems. It was originally designed to be 8.8 km long but GPS readings taken on completion show it to be 9 km long.
- Cutting through the Pir Panjal range, the tunnel will reduce the distance between Manali and Leh by 46 km.
- The Rohtang Pass, to which the tunnel provides an alternate, is located at a height of 13,050 feet, and a journey from Manali Valley to Lahaul and Spiti Valley, which normally takes around five hours to negotiate, would now be completed in little over ten minutes.
- While the tunnel will be a boon to the residents of the Lahaul and Spiti Valley who remain cut off from the rest of the country in winters for nearly six months due to heavy snowfall, the tunnel will provide almost all-weather connectivity to the troops stationed in Ladakh.
- However, for full all-weather connectivity, additional tunnels will have to be built on the Manali-Leh route so that the high passes on the axis do not impede movement due to snowfall.
- Bridges in rivers on the approach to the tunnel from both the portals have also been completed and are now being painted.
- Snow galleries have also been built at the approach road to the tunnel from Manali side, and this will ensure all-weather connectivity.
- Other features include an emergency escape tunnel under the main tunnel. This would provide an emergency exit in case of any untoward incident which may render the main tunnel unusable.