BY VISHAL GULATI
Manali, Oct 3 (IANS) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said the majestic Atal Tunnel, beneath the lofty Rohtang Pass in Himachal Pradesh’s Kullu district, would 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,” Modi said in his address after dedicating the highway tunnel, one of the world’s most challenging and a marvel of engineering motorways, in the Himalayas to the nation.
The tunnel would be a lifeline for Ladakh and would boost border security.
Earlier, Modi inaugurated the 9.02km long Atal Tunnel from its south portal near here. It will connect Manali to the Lahaul-Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh.
It is the longest highway tunnel in the world built at an altitude of 3,000 meters.
Modi said the Atal Tunnel, the dream of former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpaye, is going to be “Sanjeevani Buti” for the residents of Lahaul-Spiti, especially during winters when the entire district “gets covered under snow and road connectivity through the Rohtang Pass gets snapped.
Praising the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), a wing of the Defence Ministry, Modi said, “One of our top priorities is to strengthen the international border on all sides.”
He blamed the previous government in the Centre for deliberately ignoring the projects of strategic importance.
“There is nothing more important for us than protecting the country. But the country has also seen a period when the defence interests of the country were compromised.”
“Even in the case of Atal Tunnel, if the pace of the construction continued as in the previous governments it would have been completed by 2040,” Modi, donning a Himachal cap, said.
“In the year 2002, Atalji laid the foundation stone of the approach road to the tunnel.
“After Atalji’s government, this work was forgotten. The situation was that by 2013-14, only 1,300 meters of the work for the tunnel was completed,” said Modi.
“Work on Atal Tunnel was accelerated after 2014; in just six years, we completed the work of 26 years.”
“My brothers and sisters of Himachal Pradesh can understand what it means to reduce the distance of three-four hours on the mountain with the completion of this tunnel,” he said.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at [email protected])