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An Engineering Milestone: The Story of Tenacity and Extreme Engineering Unfolds in HistoryTV18’s Modern Marvel: Atal Tunnel

HistoryTV18’s latest documentary, ‘Modern Marvel: Atal Tunnel’, is the awe-inspiring story of the indomitable human spirit and the wonders of modern engineering. A never-before-seen chronicle of a world-record setting feat, created in some of the harshest conditions on the planet.

Piercing through the Pir Panjal range in India’s Western Himalayas, India’s newest man-made marvel was dedicated to the nation on the 3rd of October, 2020. It’s the longest high altitude highway tunnel in the world. At over 10,000 feet above sea level, the 9.02 KM tunnel and road-link, connects Leh, in strategically sensitive Ladakh, with Manali via Keylong in Himachal Pradesh. For nearly seven months a year, heavy snowfall would deny access beyond the treacherous Rohtang Pass. Now, the all-weather route created by tunnelling under the Pass brings much-needed connectivity to the people of Himachal’s Lahaul and Spiti.

The idea of the tunnel took shape at the turn of the millennium, after a meeting between India’s Prime Minister at the time, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his childhood friend Arjun Gopal, a resident of Lahaul. But it would be many years before the project got underway, only gathering momentum under the Modi government, which provided a much-needed impetus to the project by raising the speed of construction to five times of what it was under previous governments. Speaking at the inauguration of the tunnel, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, underlined his commitment to fast-tracking projects of national interest, “When one wants to move on the path of development at a rapid pace and there is a strong desire for the development of the people of the country, then the speed has to be increased.”

Tunnelling 10,000 feet high up in the Himalayas, braving blizzards, avalanches, and nature’s incredible fury was not just ambitious it had never been attempted before, anywhere in the world. But that is exactly the kind of mission that the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), a specialized arm of the Indian Armed Forces, was raised to undertake. Since 1960, the BRO has been responsible for connecting India’s far-flung corners and remote frontiers. Given India’s growing national security concerns and defence needs, its role is a crucial one.

HistoryTV18’s action-packed half-hour documentary uncovers little-known facts, shining the light on the enormity and complexity of the endeavour, giving a blow by blow account of the challenges and what it took to accomplish the mission. The show brings to life the triumph of the never-say-die spirit in this untold Himalayan odyssey. Parts of the documentary were filmed in winter to capture the hostile conditions that prevail that time of the year. The narrative showcases the trials and the setbacks that the project’s 750 officers, engineers, geologists, seismologists, drilling experts and over 3,000 workers overcame, turning the dream into reality.

Speaking about the importance of the tunnel, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh says, “Strategically and for its national importance, the tunnel is a blessing for our country. Along with its economic benefits, the tunnel also has great importance from a social perspective.” The documentary also features Defence Secretary, Ajay Kumar, and BRO Director General, Lt. Gen. Rajeev Chaudhry, who provide valuable insights. The Atal Tunnel project’s Chief Engineer, KP Purushothaman, shares a first-person account of what transpired hundreds of metres inside the mountain. Archival images and footage from the construction site enrich the storytelling, while aerial shots of the mesmerizing snow peaks, filmed in 4K and high definition, provide the daunting backdrop against which the story unfolds.

Speaking about the programme, Avinash Kaul, Managing Director – A+E Networks | TV18 and CEO-Broadcast for Network18, says, with ‘Modern Marvel: Atal Tunnel’ the team at HistoryTV18 continues to deliver riveting originals, with top-notch production values and exemplary storytelling that bring to life India’s stories that are as important historically, as they are entertaining and engaging. The Atal Tunnel is undoubtedly one of the great Modern Marvels of 21st century India, in its making we have witnessed the making of history. We’re proud to have had the opportunity to tell its remarkable story.”

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