Strategic Srinagar-Leh national highway re-opens
Zojila, Leh, May 14: The 434-km-long Srinagar-Leh national highway, the lifeline of the Ladakh region and having an immense strategic importance, re-opened for vehicular traffic today after remaining closed for six winter months since November last year.
General Officer-in-Commanding (GOC) XV Corps Lt Gen S S Dhillon flagged off an Army convoy carrying essential stores for troops deployed in the Ladakh region from this highest point on the highway in presence of mediapersons today.
The Border road organisation (BRO) has been making continuous efforts to keep the road open for maximum time of the year.
The 75-km stretch from Gagangir to Drass spreading almost equally on either side of the Zojila Pass which was closed for traffic in November last year, experienced heavy snowfall and extremely adverse climatic conditions during the last winter.
The road between Gagangir and Machoi (116 km) was completely riddled with huge avalanches, which resulted in snow accumulation between 40 and 60 ft.
The BRO launched its snow clearance operation on the Zojila Pass on March 3 this year. With nearly four decades of experience in snow clearance operations, Project Beacon of the BRO has now mechanised with new snow cutting machines for augmenting the earlier dozers.
A total of five snow cutters and nine dozers were deployed between 72 km and 108 km by the Project Beacon and two snow cutters and 12 dozers from 147 km to 108 km by Project Himank.
As the entire highway was covered with thick snow, the most difficult task has been to identify the road alignment after every winter. The reconnaissance party with the help of local labourers perform this job with several navigational aids.
Though connectivity with Project Himank at 108 km was achieved on April 30, enormous efforts were put in by both the Projects besides clearing the snow due to fresh snowfall between April 11 and 20.
The gushing of water due to snow melting and traversing across the road caused extensive damages to the road surface. This warranted a very high degree of maintenance before the highway was finally opened for the trial convoy on May 12 and 13.
After successful completion of the trial convoy and placement of all detachments, the highway was opened for all traffic today as per schedule coordinated between Project Beacon, XV Corps Headquarters and the civil administration.
The Centre has recently upgraded the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh highway to the status of National Highway. The demand had been pending with the Centre for a long time.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had recently taken up the issue with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, urging him for an early declaration of Srinagar-Leh road as National Highway.
The conferring of the status of National Highway will provide greater impetus to its development besides help in making it operational for longer duration.
The Centre had also sanctioned a tunnel at the Zojila Pass to make the highway an all-weather road for the people of Ladakh region.