On October 3, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Atal Tunnel at Rohtang, Himachal Pradesh. The Hindu reported that the 9.02 km-long-tunnel, built by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), connects Manali to Lahaul-Spiti valley.

Prior to the inauguration, several Twitter and Facebook users posted an image of two partially constructed tunnels along with Hindi text, “PM Shree @narendramodi ji congratulations on the world’s longest highway tunnel #Atal_Surang. This tunnel will play an important role in protecting the borders of our country. The distance between Manali and Leh will also be reduced by 4 to 5 hours which will give a boost to the economy and tourism sector.”

(Translated from पीएम श्री @narendramodi जी को दुनिया की सबसे लंबी राजमार्ग सुरंग #अटल_सुरंग के लिए बधाई। यह सुरंग हमारे देश की सीमाओं की रक्षा करने में महत्वपूर्ण भूमिका निभाएगी। मनाली और लेह के बीच की दूरी भी 4 से 5 घंटे कम हो जाएगी जिससे अर्थव्यवस्था और पर्यटन क्षेत्र को बढ़ावा मिलेगा।)

Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) members Narendra Kumar Chawla (archived link) and Adesh Gupta (archived link) were among those who shared the picture. Their tweets cumulatively gained close 400 retweets.

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Several media outlets also published the viral image in their articles including News18 (archived link), India Times (archived link), MenXP (archived link), OdishaTV (archived link), and Rush Lane (archived link). The image in India Times, MenXP, OdishaTV were credited to Times of India, BCCL, and Rush Lane respectively. There are no photo credits given to the viral image in the News18 article and Rush Lane articles. Additionally, India Today had also published the viral image in the article but later took it down.

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Fact-check takes us to California

Alt News performed a reverse image search and noticed that Google identified the image as ‘atal rohtang tunnel’ and a plethora of media outlets had shared this image in the past dating back to a few years.

However, after rummaging through the search results, we found that a blog had posted the viral image in 2012. Its titled, ‘Inside The Devils Slide Tunnel’ and had multiple other shots of the structure.

We performed a keyword search on Google and learned that the Devil’s Slide Tunnel is located in California, USA. The official name of the tunnel is Tom Lantos Tunnel, after a US Congressman. The tunnel has been functional since 2013  — which explains an under-construction tunnel featured in the 2012 blog.

Last year Texas-based journalist posted another image of the tunnel.

Furthermore, a keyword search on Reuters led us to multiple images of the newly constructed Tom Lantos Tunnel. The caption of the image attached below reads, “A man stands near two tunnels that will replace a notorious stretch of California’s Highway 1 at Devil’s Slide near Pacifica, California March 25, 2013. The tunnels mark the completion of the $439 million transportation project, which bypass a steep, winding portion of the coastal highway south of San Francisco that has long been susceptible to rockslide-related closures.”

Therefore, at least an eight-year-old image of Tom Lantos Tunnel was shared by Indian media as newly-inaugurated Atal Tunnel.

Alt News also noticed that two years ago news website Daily Pakistan published the viral image as Havelian-Thakot tunnel. (archived link)

 

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About the Author

Archit is a graduate in English Literature from The MS University of Baroda. He also holds a post-graduation diploma in journalism from the Asian College of Journalism. Since then he has worked at Essel Group's English news channel at WION as a trainee journalist, at S3IDF as a fundraising & communications officer and at The Hindu as a reporter. At Alt News, he works as a fact-checking journalist.