Herculean efforts of Lama Chhunjhor to build road connects remote Zanskar valley with Leh Manali road

Dashrath Manjhi story may have seen the daylight thanks to the efforts of Aamir Khan but, this script of overcoming hard adversity to cut out a road in a landlocked valley is written in the remote high passes of Himalayas.

Chuldim Chhunjhor, a 73 years old Bhuddist monk, has written history by connecting Shingola pass (5034 meters) in Lahaul & Spiti valley of Himachal Pradesh with Zanskar Valley of Jammu & Kashmir.

Lama Chuldim Chhunjhor
Lama Chuldim Chhunjhor

Recalling this Herculean task, Lama Chhunjhor told Hill Post that inspite of Independence more than 15 villages of Zanskar Valley were forced to walk 5-6 days in the inhospitable conditions marching some of the highest passes of this planet to reach Leh or Manali. He said that the most sufferers were students, patients and old people who had to pass through this ordeal every time they had to reach their destination. It was the plight of these people which led Lama Chhunjhor to connect this part of the Zanskar Valley with Himachal Pradesh, which has better road connectivity.

It was no mean task as the current trek passes through mighty Shingola Pass at 16615 feets..

It took Lama Chhunjhor more than 2 decades to persuade local villagers the importance of road connectivity & finally in 2012 with little resources in hand, started this mammoth task.

As the saying goes ‘where there is a will there is a way’…After the Kargil War, Ministry of Defence formed a Kargil Review committee which conceptualized an alternate road connectivity from Himachal Pradesh side to Leh & Kargil in 2001. The task was given to BRO (Border road Organisation), a premier division of Indian Army making border area roads. The 70 RCC,of Project Deepak was entrusted this work in 2007.

shingola pass-3
Shingola Pass

By then,Lama Chhunjhor had already traced the road upto Shingola Pass. Afterwards,with the help of more than 10 Kms tracings done by Lama Chhunjhor, BRO successfully completed the near impossible road till Shingola Pass.

Finally, on 19 September 2015 BRO team led by Commander 38 BRTF Col K.P.Rajendra Kumar announced the joining of Shingola Pass in Himachal Pradesh with Zanskar side of Jammu & Kashmir. Overjoyed with this success the local villagers facilitated Lama Chhunjhor and team BRO with traditional ‘Khata’ & salty butter tea.

shingola pass
Prayer flags flutter at Shingola Pass

Tangzin Chhopel, a resident of Tangtze village was overwhelmed with joy on this occasion. He said Lama Chhunjhor’s impossible dream of a road to this part of Zanskar Valley has finally become a reality”.

On this occasion,Col K.P.Rajendra congratulated his team and hoped that once the rest of road on the other side of Shingola pass, would be completed by Project Vijayan of BRO, it would immensely help the entire region of that area. He also praised the efforts of local people led by Lama Chhunjhor.

Team of BRO engineers
Team of BRO engineers

It is prudent to mention that when completed this Darcha-Shingola-Padum-Rangdum-Kargil road will shorten the existing road distance between Manali to Kargil by almost 275 Kms. Meanwhile, Lama Chhunjhor has already made a 4.5 kms road to the other part of Shingola Pass towards Padum.

Interacting with Hill Post, Lama Chhunjhor who lost his thumb in the road construction operation last year said “today my dream of a road to Zanskar Valley is coming true and now my heartiest wish is to live some more years to see it happening in my lifetime”.

Sanjay Dutta, an engineer by qualification but is a journalist by choice. He has worked for the premier new agency Press Trust of India and leading English daily Indian Express. With more than a decade of experience, he has been highlighting issues related to environment, tourism and other aspects affecting mountain ecology. Sanjay Dutta lives in a village close to Manali in Kullu valley of Himachal.

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