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For the first time, Ladakh gets linked with rest of India before schedule despite lockdown

NEW DELHI: Good news for the people of Ladakh as for the first time the Union Territory will get connected by road with the rest of India ahead of its schedule despite a nationwide coronavirus lockdown in place,

The teams of Border Roads Organisation (BRO) are busy with operations without compromising their health.

Sources from the BRO said that ‘Our teams are working to remove heavy snow from three different passes on two roads. The work is carried out whenever we get clear weather’.

BRO is mandated to construct and maintain strategic roads.

Ladakh is linked by only two land routes with the rest of India. These roads are Srinagar-Leh road and Manali-Leh road passing through Sarchu. Ladakh is strategically important as it shares disputed borders with Pakistan and China.

Keeping the difficulties involved in the mission, planning and initial work was done much ahead.

“Both roads will be functional by the middle of this month. Keeping the limited window of work in mind organisation the operation had begun in 2019 May when roads were being opened for that season,” told the officer. Every year the routes open in May.

Terrorism has rendered the Srinagar-Leh road less dependable, however, snow clearing work started first on this route.

‘Operations at Zojila Pass at 11,575 ft connecting Srinagar with Leh started a month ahead in February and with continuous work and more committed machinery for the first time snow was cleared in early March and only restricted movement of vehicles were allowed.

‘Manali Leh road goes through two high altitude passes crossing two different mountain ranges, Rohtang Pass (13,005 ft) on the Pir Panjal Range and Baralacha La (16, 050ft) on Zanskar Range.’

Informed the source enumerating the difficulties of unpredictable weather aggravated by heavy snowfall and blizzard.

Clearing Operation at Baralacha La was daunting as the temperature plummets up to minus 30 degree and air is rarefied due to high altitude. Keeping the prevalent condition in mind the worry was not of inducting the team alone. In case of any eventuality evacuating a casualty was also to be factored. Trek to the area of operation was found impossible leaving air induction as the only option and thus requirement for a Helipad arose.

“A comprehensive plan was approved by the DG BRO in 2019 and equipment like Excavator, Dozer, Snow cutter, plough, Earth Mover were kept at Keelung Sarai with fuel and dry rations in 2019 only when the routes were being closed.” the source said. The operation was run in stages.

“We began with the construction of a new Helipad at Sarchu to be used for induction of earmarked troops. Air Force carried its trial landing in November 2019.”

The final operation started on March 8 when a team of 10 personnel with Engineer, Operator, Mechanic, Medical and Representative with the administrative staff was inducted in an Air force helicopter.

“While blizzard is causing hindrance we also had restriction of keeping minimal personnel. They are following all the advice to not get infected of Coronavirus,” told the source.

We are hopeful that we will operationalise the roads by middle of this month, said the officer confidently.

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