The Srinagar-Leh national highway reopened to vehicle traffic on Thursday in a record 68 days after it was closed in January this year after heavy snowfall, officials said.
A trial movement has been successfully completed and the decision to reopen the road to civilian traffic will be taken following a joint inspection by the civil administrations of the Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.
The highway was opened to traffic at Zojila Pass, which sits at an elevation of 11,650 feet, by Border Roads Organization (BRO) Director General Lt Gen Rajeev Chaudhary.
Zojila is a strategic pass that provides an important link between the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh and is key to the readiness of the armed forces. It used to be closed for about six months due to heavy snowfall. In recent years, however, the BRO has reopened it in less time. This year it was cleared in a record time of 68 days.
Speaking to reporters, Lt. Gen. Chaudhary said opening the pass is of great importance from both a strategic and socio-economic point of view.
“People in Ladakh used to stay cut off for about five to six months, but the BRO has opened this route earlier than usual and people can go to Srinagar for their needs or medical emergencies or even trade and commerce,” he said.
He said the reopening of the pass will give the region an economic boost.
“By opening this route, tourism will also open up, and the people of Kargil, Drass and Leh will benefit greatly from the opening of this route,” he said.
He said the central government is also benefiting greatly from its reopening.
“In order to maintain our forces stationed in Ladakh, all supplies must be sent by air, for what approximately €7 crore is spent daily. We have made a calculation that we can save ourselves €400-450 crore that would otherwise have to be spent on this maintenance by reopening the road earlier,” he said.
The BRO DG said the motorway was open until January 6 this year, after which it was closed to traffic after heavy snowfall.
“The pass was open until January 6th. In February we decided to start the demolition work, keeping in mind the safety of the workers. So we carried out the operation and systematically cleared the snow. Traffic started on it today, it’s now reopened in record time, that’s a great achievement,” he said.
Earlier it was considered to reopen the route in May. But in recent years, the road has been reopened earlier. “Next year we will try to reopen it earlier,” he added.
Lieutenant-General Chaudhary said when reopening the Zojilla Pass, “We can easily move machinery, tanks, guns, etc., if and whenever we need it…so that they can reach the forces stationed in Ladakh.”
“This is the only route that connects Ladakh to the rest of the country. The Leh-Manali route is not open yet,” he said.
The pass will reopen to civilian traffic in the next few days after assessing the road conditions and the safety issue, he added.
A civilian, Bakir Ali, said the population on both sides of the pass was happy with its reopening.
“The pass was opened earlier than in previous years. As the holy month of Ramzan is about to start, it is great that this route has been opened and will allow people to take care of their daily needs. We can now bring in fresh fruits, vegetables etc.” Ali said.
The BRO has broken its own records when it comes to reopening the pass. The road opened in 110 days in 2021, 78 days in 2022 and just 68 days this year.
This story was published from a wire agency feed with no changes to the text. Only the headline has been changed.
You Can Find related services like Travel Agency, Travellers Lodge, Budget Hotel, Business Hotel, Hotel, Bus Tour Agency, Tour Agency, Hospitality and Tourism School at Namelocals.