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Atal tunnel through Rohtang Pass to be a boon for tourists

The Rohtang Pass tunnel road is likely to be dedicated to the nation by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September 2020. It will be the longest and the highest motorable tunnel in the world. It goes under the present high-altitude Rohtang Pass which is highly hazardous and a trip is arduous. The tunnel road will provide an all-season connectivity across Rohtang. Currently the Pass is open from April till October only. The tunnel will also reduce the journey time from 6 hours to 30 minutes.

MANALI, Aug 20: The Rohtang Pass tunnel, called Atal tunnel, named after former Prime Minister the late Atal Behari Vajpayee, is slated to be opened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in September.

It is a tunnel road being built under the Rohtang Pass in the eastern Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas on the Kullu-Manali-Leh road in Himachal Pradesh. It will provide an all-season connectivity across Rohtang, between Manali and Lahaul Spiti. Currently the Pass is open from April till October only.

The 8.8-km tunnel road will reduce the time taken to cross the Pass from 6 hours to 30 minutes. Apart from being a boon to tourists and goods traffic, it will also smoothen a strategic alternative route to Leh for the military.

Rohtang Pass elevation is 3,980 m (13,058 ft)). The Pass, 50 km from Manali, runs on the watershed between the Chenab and Beas river basins. The road from Kullu valley through Manali and over the Pass leads to Keylong, Lahaul-Spiti and Leh in Ladakh. There can be snowfall on the Pass even in summer. Dangerous snowstorms and blizzards can also occur. Rohtang itself means land of corpses (ro=corpse; thang=land, in Persian). The tunnel road will not only cut short the distance to Leh, but also will make the journey less hazardous.

Work on the 8.8 km tunnel project began on June 28, 2010. Once completed, the motor speed on the two-lane tunnel road will be 80 kmh (50 mph). The road on the pass will then be abandoned. While it takes 4 to 6 hours to climb and cross the Pass, it will take only about 30 minutes to travel through the Atal tunnel.

A permit system was recently introduced to limit the traffic to Rohtang Pass. No vehicles are allowed on Tuesdays as one day is marked for maintenance. Permits are issued by the Himachal Pradesh Tourism through online. A permit costs Rs 500 and there is a congestion charge of Rs 50 per vehicle per day. The Pass is open from April till October.

Vehicles heading to Lauhaul and Spiti can directly cross using the Atal road tunnel, once the tunnel is ready. The present road on the Pass will no longer be maintained due to excessive costs.

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