Rohtang Pass road cleared of snow

Shimla: Hard pressed to open an alternate route to Ladhak as tensions mount on the western India – China, army road engineers have cleared the over 13,000 feet altitude Rohtang Pass of snow, enabling unlocking of Lahaul valley that was snowbound for six months.

Border Roads Organisation, the agency assigned with the task of clearing the high passes of snow, today announced opening of the road after having been snowbound for nearly six months.

Col JS Sahani, planning officer BRO said heavy machinery including bull-dozers and snow cutters were deployed from both sides of the pass and the breakthrough was achieved on yesterday night.

“The road has been thrown open to regulated traffic, he said.

Snow clearing operations atop Rohtang Pass; Photo - Sanjay Dutta
Snow clearing operations atop Rohtang Pass; Photo – Sanjay Dutta

Work on clearing the vital road of snow was started on March 1, 2013 and was completed on the targeted date. Last year also the road was thrown open by April, 24, the army engineers said.

Efforts to beat the deadline were defeated by frequent snowfalls in between, which slowed down work, said Sahani.

Last winter had record snow accumulate on the pass and at places, the snow sheet was as much as 40 feet thick.

Filming a story of army engineers braving the cold to clear the road of snow, a television journalist had died on April 3, when suddenly a avalanche struck throwing him, the cameraman and workers at the site several hundred feet into the valley. All others were rescued but 28 year old Prem Thakur  got buried deep and could not be pulled out to safety.

Rohtang Pass provides the only link to the land locked tribal Lahaul valley. Valley residents have been anxiously waiting for opening of the road to Keylong and we will not stop anyone wanting to cross over, said a BRO officer.

However, the Manali-Leh highway beyond Keylong is still snowbound and clearing operations at Baralacha Pass are targeted for completion by 15 May.

There are a number of dangerous points on the Manali – Leh road and it would take more than a  week for it being thrown open to normal traffic, said the road  engineers.

Road clearing operations over Kunzam Pass are also progressing from Losar side in Spiti. Kunzam Pass provides connectivity between Chandra Valley and Spiti valley and is a popular tourist and trekking route from Manali side.

Given the beeline that tourists make for getting to Rohtang Pass, once the road is thrown open, BRO engineers have sought a  meeting with civilian authorities for ensuring a regulated flow of traffic on the route.

Police and BRO posts for conducting timely rescue operation have been set up at Marhi in Kullu valley side and Koksar in Lahaul valley side.

To provide an all weather road to Lahaul valley that remains inaccessible from 15th November to April, engineers are boring an 8 Km tunnel under the mountain range to connect Solang Nallah in Kullu-Manali valley with Sisu in Lahaul.

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