Strategic 'Atal Tunnel' to help promote tourism: PM

The "strategic" Rohtang tunnel, christened as Atal Tunnel and connecting Manali to Leh will change the fortunes of the region and help promote tourism, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday.

Speaking at an event held to name the underground motor passage after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Modi said the project is very important for the country.

"Rohtang Tunnel, connecting Manali in Himachal Pradesh to Leh in Ladakh, will now be known as Atal Tunnel. This strategic tunnel will change the fortunes of this region. It will help in promoting tourism in the region," he said.

The historic decision to build the tunnel below the Rohtang Pass was taken in 2000 when Vajpayee was the prime minister.

The 8.8-km-long tunnel will be the world's longest above an altitude of 3,000 metres and will reduce the distance between Manali and Leh by 46 kilometres, according to the defence ministry.

Once thrown open, the tunnel will provide all-weather connectivity to remote border areas of Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh which otherwise remain cut off from the rest of the country for about six months during winters.

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