Manali: Closed since November, 2015, the strategically important Manali-Leh highway was finally thrown open on Thursday May 26 after Border Roads Organisation cleared it of mounds of snow and permitted movement of vehicles to cross over Rohtang Pass (3979 meters altitude) and Baralacha Pass (4850 meters).
Last year the Pass was made motorable on 13th June, 2015; ‘this year the road has opened a little earlier due to less snowfall compared to last year,’ disclosed Colonel KPS Rajendra, commander of 38 BRTF who was tasked with organising the snow clearing operations.
Border Roads Organization (BRO) is responsible for maintenance of the 474 km long Manali-Leh highway that provides a vital alternate road to Ladakh than the one which has to pass through the sensitive Kashmir valley.
The BRO’s 38 Border Road Task Force (BRTF) which maintains the road from Manali to Sarchu, (222 km), is the most difficult stretch of the highway to clear of winter snows.The road between Sarchu and Leh has already been opened due to less snow in Ladakh region.
Snow clearing operations from Manali side started on 1st March but a heavy spring snowfall on March 13 hampered the operations. After more than month’s of gruelling work in freezing temperatures and high altitude, it was on 6th April that the heavy duty snow cutter machinery from Koksar (Lahaul valley side) and Manali side were able to connect at Rohtang Pass (3979 meters altitude) top and reestablish a road link with landlocked Lahaul valley, said the Army engineer.
Operations to clear snow from the 4850 meter high Baralacha Pass started on April 21 and a breakthrough was made on 11 May. It took another 10 days to widen and stabilize the freshly opened snowbound road and finally civil traffic for Leh was allowed from May 26 onwards, Col Rajendra summed up.
Photos: Courtesy BRO
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.