Rohtang tunnel landfill to be developed into tourism village
Ten months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened the Atal Tunnel at the 13,058-ft Rohtang Pass, the Himachal Pradesh government has decided to develop the landfill site adjoining the North Portal into a tourism village.
The Border Roads Organisation that built the tunnel over a decade since 2010 excavated 15 lakh cubic metres of earth and dumped it at the landfill site at Sissu near the tunnel’s North Portal. The Indian Army has already created a lake near the South Portal about 10km away by tapping a rivulet.
The Himachal Pradesh government has asked the BRO to return the land allocated for activities related to the construction of the tunnel. The Lahaul and Spiti district administration had given 34.87 hectares. “We have asked the BRO to return the land allocated to it for different activities to set up a tourism village,” said Lahaul and Spiti deputy commissioner Neeraj Kumar.
Walking trails to vistadome buses
When contacted, state tourism director Amit Kashyap said, “Nayi rahein nayi manzilein (New routes, new destinations). The tourism village will have cafes, walking trails, eateries and a hotel, too. There will be rural haat (exhibition area) where tribal residents of the region can display and sell local organic produce besides articles of traditional attire and accessories.”
Once the plan is ready, the government will apply for forest clearances.
The government plans to run vistadome buses with a glass rooftop for a panoramic view through the region. The bus will ply through the 8.8-km tunnel between Manali and Leh.
There are plans to develop ski slopes at Tiling village in Lahaul to boost tourism in the Himalayan valley. Tiling, which has a population of 35 people according to the 2011 census, is 2km from the North Portal.
Tourist footfall on the rise
The ₹32,000-crore tunnel has shortened the 474-km distance between Manali and Leh by 46km and has further cut short the journey by two-and-a-half hours.
The tourism potential can be gauged from the fact that a record 6,400 vehicles crossed the all-weather Atal Tunnel on July 18.
The tourist footfall has been on a rise since the Covid restrictions were lifted as the second wave subsided in June. After the opening of the tunnel in October last year, more than 3.45 lakh vehicles have crossed the tunnel.
“Normally, the number of vehicles crossing the tunnel ranges between 600 and 2,300 vehicles a day,” says superintendent of police Manav Verma.
The government plans to improve amenities, including building toilet facilities, for tourists as littering and waste disposal have emerged as concerns along the Manali-Leh highway.