Observers noted that India has not yet realized that the Atal Tunnel will not be useful in wartime, but that the country is encouraged by its completion. And its construction is more for “show” and political purposes.
The author married a woman from the Ladakh, has visited and lived in the region over the years, and witnessed the construction of the tunnel. He said a single Atal Tunnel would do nothing to change the situation of the region, in which he had suffered from a lack of supplies and vegetables in winters.
He pointed out that on China’s Sichuan-Tibet line, there are at least 12 mountain passes more than 4,000 meters, many of which now have tunnels, and transportation remains a problem. There are only three passes in the Leh-Manali Highway, where the Atal Tunnel is located.
The Rohtang-La pass, through which the tunnel passes, is located in the southern foothills of the Himalayas, where weather can be unpredictable, and blizzards occur without warning. All the three passes are closed in winter.
He pointed out that if Ladakh wants to always be open to traffic, all the three passes have to be tunnel-built. But on Indian efficiency, it is questionable whether it can be resolved in 50 years.
“It may be more realistic to expect global warming to shorten the ice and snow period, rather than rely on the Indian government to build the tunnels,” he said.
Construction of the Atal Tunnel was announced in 2000, and was scheduled to be completed in 2007. Because the cabinet security committee of India did not approve the project until 2009, the project did not start until 2010.
Although the tunnel is expected to reduce the distance between Manali and Leh by 46 kilometers, according to Indian media, the photographer said that 46 kilometers is only a tenth of the Leh-Manali Highway, which is 473 kilometers.
He added that passing along the road will take at least 18 hours if everything goes well, and there are no stops, with an average speed of less than 30 kilometers per hour.
At 9.02 kilometers, Indian media claimed that the Atal Tunnel was the longest tunnel above 10,000 feet in the world. The photographer denied this, saying that the Chinese know the truth.
China completed the Xueshan No.1 tunnel in 2017 in Huajiu Expressway, Qinghai Province, with an average altitude of 4,400 meters and a length of 9,065 meters, Xinhua reported.
China’s project quality and efficiency are far better than India’s, the photographer said, adding that it only took three years to build the Xueshan No.1 tunnel.
“Tunnels similar to the Atal Tunnel have already blossomed in Tibetan areas, as Chinese people are no longer surprised,” he noted.