Thanks to less snow and latest tech, BRO kept Srinagar-Leh highway open for record time this winter
NEW DELHI: The Leh-Srinagar highway, a crucial link connecting the strategic Ladakh sector with Srinagar, was closed for traffic on Friday as substantial snow accumulation finally started on the Zojila Pass stretch.
This is the longest period in recent years that the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has been able to keep the critical road open aided by negligible, or in some places almost nil, snow and the latest technology.
Every year, the BRO is involved in snow clearance operations in tough weather conditions to keep the Zojila Pass, located at 11,800 feet altitude, open as there is a minimum of 30-40 feet of snow from mid-December onwards.
In the winter of 2020-21, the road was closed to traffic on December 31, 2020; in 2021-22, it was closed on January 4, 2022; and in 2022-23, it was closed on January 6, 2023, according to BRO records.
However, this year saw negligible or almost nil precipitation – snow in the higher reaches and rainfall in the lower – across the northwest Himalayas. There was barely six to seven feet snow till mid-January.
Data from the India Meteorological Department (IMD) showed that till January 24, the Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh received zero precipitation resulting in minus 100 per cent departure while the hills of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh showed minus 99 per cent departure.
As on Friday, Ladakh still continued with minus 100 per cent departure while Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand showed minus 99 per cent departure.
However, it is not just the lack of snow that helped the BRO to navigate the tough terrain easily.
“Since last year, we have deployed a GPS-enabled route guiding system. With the help of GIS (geographical information system), we have duly mapped all the roads in high-altitude areas in Ladakh. The navigation is done using the instrument mounted on the leading dozer,” former BRO DG Lt Gen Rajeev Chaudhary told PTI.
During his tenure, Chaudhary had deployed the technology with an aim to keep the important pass open for as long as possible. It is important to maintain the supply chain logistics for the troops posted in forward areas in Ladakh.
“When the roads close, the high mountain passes close, it is the Air Force that steps in to provide all logistical support for troops in Ladakh. It costs approximately Rs 7-8 crore per day,” Chaudhary, who retired as DG last September, added.
The BRO maintains 27 high-altitude snow-bound passes in the Ladakh sector. Each year, it aims at reducing the number of days that these passes are closed for traffic. With rising temperatures and lesser snowfall, traditionally Zojila and other passes were opened in April or sometimes even in May.
Zojila was opened on April 19 in 2021, on March 19 in 2022 and March 16 in 2023, thus reducing the time it was closed to traffic from 110 to 73 to 68 days.
“With this route guiding system, we are hoping to open the road even earlier this year,” Chaudhary said.–(PTI)