Srinagar-Leh national highway to reopen in May
Srinagar, Apr 3: Snow clearance operation are in full swing to reopen the 434-km-long Srinagar-Leh national highway in the first week of May after remaining closed for about six winter months.
Sophisticated snow clearance machines and cutters have been pressed into service to clear the snow on the highway, life line of the Ladakh region, a senior Border Roads Organisation (BRO) Officer Commanding (OC) A K Bhandari told UNI.
He said snow clearance operation has been launched from both sides, Drass on the Leh side and Baltal from Sriangar side, to make the road operational by first week of May.
''We expect to clear the snow by last week of this month,'' he said, adding it will take another week or 10 days to repair the damaged portion of the highway before allowing traffic movement.
Mr Bhandari said snow on the highway has been cleared upto Machoiee from Drass, the second coldest place in the world after Siberia.
He said there were anxious moments after fresh snowfall as it could have triggered snow avalanches.
The OC said the cutters had to cut five to 10 feet of snow accumulated on the highway at different places. It is a difficult job as there is always a danger of avalanche, he added.
He said the BRO has identified avalanche prone areas on the highway where 50 to 70 feet snow has accumulated and it can come down anytime. Owing to precautionary measures being taken by the BRO and Road Construction Company (RCC), the number of accidents has come down during the snow clearance operations, he said.
Mr Bhandari said clearance operation was going on between 114 km Machoiee and 146 km Manimarg on Drass side while it was in full swing on 110 km Captain Morh from valley side.
The highway was officially closed on November 17 last year.
However, there was illegal movement of vehicles till December last when the first snowfall occurred.
The people of the Kargil, including the Kargil Autonomous Hill Development Council (KAHDC) members, are demanding a tunnel at Zojila, the highest point on the highway to make it an all weather road.
The Centre has already sanctioned Rs six crore for constructing the tunnel.
The State government is also planning to prepare a feasibility report on another road which will connect Kargil with the valley via Pahalgam in south Kashmir.
The closure of the highway for six winter months forces the people of the Ladakh region to store all essential commodities, including rice, flour, gas and kerosene oil.
However, Leh remains connected by air as alternative Manali road is also closed for winter months due to heavy snowfall.