Abhishek Malik, a tourist from Chandigarh, couldn’t stop himself from visiting the Atal Tunnel in Himachal Pradesh on Sunday.
Malik is among the large number of tourists and locals who were seen taking selfies near the tunnel, the world’s longest on an altitude of 10,040 feet, which has become a tourist destination a day after it was thrown open to the public by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The 9.02-km underpass connects Lahaul of Lahaul-Spiti district and Manali of Kullu district in Himachal Pradesh.
Malik said he was in Manali when it was opened by Modi on Saturday. “The tunnel is a marvellous piece of engineering,” he told PTI.
Sissu village panchayat head Suman visited the tunnel along with several villagers. The north portal of the tunnel falls under the village.
Earlier, Suman said, villagers had to travel for around four hours to reach Manali through the Rohtang Pass, which remain closed for about six months due to snow-laden roads in winter.
“Now, it takes about an hour to reach Manali from Sissu and, that too, with all-weather connectivity,” she told PTI. “It will definitely be beneficial for our cash crops, patients, students and other people of the area.”
Meanwhile, a Border Roads Organisation official said the tunnel would remain closed for public daily from 9-10 am and 4-5 pm.
Suman is hopeful that the tourism industry will grow in Lahaul after the opening of the tunnel. However, she urged the tourists to avoid rash and negligence driving in the area.
Several instances of rash and negligent driving, and “indecent behaviour” by tourists have been noticed since the opening of the tunnel on Saturday evening. Incidents of throwing garbage by tourists in the area have also been witnessed, according to the village head.
Suman said the dream of their ancestors had been fulfilled with the opening of the tunnel.
A new era of development will begin not only in her village but the entire Lahaul-Spiti district, she added.