Inauguration of Atal Tunnel in Rohtang and its Strategic Importance
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TOPIC: General Studies 2 & 3
- International Relations
- Border Security
In News: Prime Minister f India inaugurated the World’s longest Highway tunnel – Atal Tunnel.
- Location: Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh; in the Pir Panjal ranges of Himachal Pradesh below Rohtang Valley
- Constructed by: The Atal Tunnel is one of the most challenging projects undertaken by the BRO, which develops and maintains road networks in India’s border areas, around 33,000 km length of it, and has Army officers on deputation among its ranks.
- Connects: Manali to Lahaul-Spiti valley throughout the year.
- Declared a scheduled area under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution, entitled to special protections and provisions, the district is almost entirely tribal (81.4%, as per the 2011 Census), with Scheduled Castes forming 7% of the population. The annual tribal sub-plan of the state government covers Lahaul-Spiti.
Earlier the valley was cut off for about 6 months each year owing to heavy snowfall.
- Cutting through a mountain to the west of Rohtang La, the tunnel will shorten the distance between Solang Valley near Manali to Sissu in Lahaul, the two points it connects, by around 46 km.
- The 8.8-kilometre long tunnel is the world’s longest tunnel above an altitude of 3,000 metres. It will reduce the time by about 4 to 5 hours.
- It would also reduce the distance between Manali and Keylong by 3-4 hours.
- Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee laid the foundation of the approach road for this tunnel in 2002.
What is the genesis of the project?
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.
A. Security and Connectivity:
- Aid the forward connectivity offering the security forces a major strategic advantage
- Strengthen our defence preparedness
- Significant due to the rising tensions on the eastern front with China. Since May this year, the procession of Army trucks through the Rohtang Pass has been almost ceaseless, as men and material are ferried to the flash points in Ladakh. Not only does the tunnel mean quicker supplies, but also that Army convoys are no longer hostage to the vagaries of nature and snowfall.
B. Development of People and region: Atal Tunnel will prove to be a major boon for the entire region.
- People will now have access to better healthcare facilities, business opportunities and essential items”
- It will generate employment by giving impetus to the tourism sector
Connecting the Dots:
- What is the strategic importance of Atal Tunnel? Discuss.