To ensure supply of essentials, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) opened the Rohtang Pass on Saturday, three weeks ahead of the schedule, senior BRO officers said.
The snow clearance for opening the 13,500-ft high Rohtang Pass, gateway to the Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh, is conducted every year as it remains snowbound for almost six months — from mid-November to mid-May.
During these six months, the Lahaul and Spiti district remains isolated from the rest of the country and dependent on airways for external logistics and supplies.
On April 11, the Himachal Pradesh government approached the Ministry of Defence and the Director General (Border Roads) to expedite the snow clearance to facilitate return of farmers to start cultivation and movement of essential supplies and relief material to the Lahaul Valley in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic.
BRO deployed hi-tech machinery from both Manali and Khoksar sides. “Snow blizzards, freezing temperatures and frequent triggering of avalanches at Rahala Fall, Beas Nallah and Rani Nallah did delay the operations, but the snow clearance teams kept working with all Covid-19 precautions to provide relief to the residents of Lahaul Valley,” said the BRO officer.
On April 25, Himachal Agriculture Minister Ram Lal Markanda, who represents Lahaul- Spiti in the state Assembly, led the first convoy of vehicles, carrying essential supplies and around 150 farmers to the Lahual Valley. They were guided by BRO thus officially opening the Rohtang Pass.
“The Rohtang Pass being opened three weeks ahead had brought relief among the locals,” said BRO officer and added, it would facilitate transport of the much-needed relief and medical supplies.
Further, the BRO officer said the work on the 8.8 km long Atal Tunnel, below the Rohtang Pass, was also stalled when the lockdown came into force.
Since the tunnel’s construction is at a critical stage, proactive measures were taken to restart work in coordination with the state government.
“Work on all critical activities at the Atal Tunnel has started with all necessary Covid-19 precautions in place to ensure its completion by September,” said the BRO officer.
To augment the government efforts against Covid-19, all BRO personnel have contributed Rs 1 crore to the PM-CARES Fund over and above a day’s salary.
Last year the Rohtang Pass was kept open till December 12.