Vivek Suri | 15 Apr 2008

ZOZILA PASS REOPENS IN RECORD TIME Srinagar-Leh highway thrown open for traffic much ahead of schedule Azad appreciates Beacon, Himank for early opening of road VIVEK SURI JAMMU, APRIL 15: At least one month ahead of the schedule, the Srinagar-



Srinagar-Leh highway thrown open for traffic much ahead of schedule


Azad appreciates Beacon, Himank for early opening of road



JAMMU, APRIL 15: At least one month ahead of the schedule, the Srinagar-Leh national Highway was thrown open for the traffic today. The state Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad today flagged off a fleet of Srinagar-bound vehicles from zero point near Gumri across Zojila, marking the earliest annual opening of the 434 km Srinagar-Leh highway after remaining closed for the winter months.


It is unprecedented feat that troops of both Beacon and Himank Border Road Projects with their concerted efforts opened the pass almost one month in advance. Also, it is for the first time that the road has been thrown open for vehicular traffic as early as mid-April while this vital road link between Kashmir and Ladakh used to be generally opened for traffic in May.


Zojila pass is the gateway to the land of Lamas and joining Kashmir Valley with the Indus Valley through 438 Km long Srinagar - Leh Road. This road is the lifeline of Kargil and Leh districts. The major mountainous and most difficult portion of the road from Golden Meadow which is Sonamarg (2,740 mtrs) lying at the foot hills of Zojila to Leh (3,510 mtrs) traversing through Fatula (4,119 mtrs) was constructed by the Project Beacon.


Project Beacon keeps the stretch from Srinagar to Gagangir (Km 72) open throughout the year while Project Himank keeps the stretch from Leh to Drass (Km 147) open throughout the year.


Zojila pass was closed on 10 December 2007. Thereafter, summer snow clearance commenced on 21 Feb 2008. With nearly four decades of experience in snow clearance operation of Zojila Pass, Project Beacon has now mechanized with new snow cutting machines for augmenting the earlier dozers. A total of three snow cutters and four dozers were collectively deployed between Km 72 and Km 108 by Project Beacon and two Snow Cutters and 12 Dozers from Km 147 to Km 108 by Project Himank.   


Although major efforts of snow clearance are machine oriented, it is the men behind the machine that matter a lot. Late snow during mid-March this year made the clearance task more Herculean. Snow accumulated from 40-90 feet at places. This year due to heavy snowfall and subsequent snow accumulation of about 40 - 90 feet at Zojila, the road opening was a challenging task.


With extensive deployment of resources and manpower, sound and meticulous planning and concerted efforts, the Project forged ahead with snow clearance operation and it was completed  on 10 April 2008 due to the utmost dedication displayed by Project Beacon personnel and local labourers. Since the entire road is covered with thick snow, the most difficult task is to identify the road alignment after every winter. The reconnaissance party with the help of local performs this job, with various navigational aids.


Describing the all time earliest opening of Srinagar-Leh highway today as a record in the history of Jammu and Kashmir, Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said  that it was indicative of how much the State and the Central governments were concerned for taking steps to mitigate the difficulties of the people of Ladakh region. He announced that during summer months the highway will remain open round the clock for convenience of the people.


Addressing a public gathering at Drass today, the second coldest inhabited place in the world, after flagging off traffic on the highway, the Chief Minister said that this year the road was opened for the first time in April.


Last year too, the opening was advanced to May 1 which was also then the earliest time to allow movement of traffic between Srinagar and Leh. Considering the difficulties of the people in Ladakh region due to prolonged closure of the highway during winter,it had been the endeavour of the state government for the last 2-3 years to pre-pone the opening of the vital road link to the region so that people were benefited.


Mr Azad said the aim of throwing open the highway early was also to promote tourism and generate economic activity in the region. The early opening of the Srinagar-Leh highway, he said, would attract tourists to Ladakh via Drass and Kargil much earlier than they used to arrive here. This, he said,would promote economic activity in the region.


He said it was also important to have tourism related facilities like hotels and restaurants so that more and more tourists visit the region. He asked the local people to open up small hotels and eating places in Drass,Kargil and other places in the region, especially along the highway.He said, besides promoting tourism, it would also grow local economy.


Stressing the need to utilize the peculiarity of the region to woo tourists, he also suggested setting up of a tourist village comprising some twenty houses to showcase the rich traditional heritage of the area. In this connection, he sought the cooperation and guidance of the elders of the area for constructing such a traditional village where tourists would get a chance to have an insight into the food habits, dress, life style, dance and music and other aspects of life.


While talking to media General Sabharwal assured that besides the induction of new road construction machineries as well as latest snow clearance equipments, with the grit and determination of BRO the road will be kept opened for a much long duration than earlier. GOC gave away prizes to members of BROs for their outstanding contribution.   


It is a commendable record breaking feat that the pass been opened almost one and half months before the schedule time i.e. Jun 08 unlike earlier years.