With an aim to restore the strategically important Manali-Leh highway till April 15, and for the welfare of its daring jawaans, 38 Border Road Task Force (BRTF) performed a special puja at Gulaba and started its two-month-long snow clearance operation on Thursday.
Removing snow from 80-km stretch of highway between Gulaba and Sissu, which has been disappeared under 10 to 50 feet of snow, is similar to finding needle in haystack. BRTF personnel would work under the threats of avalanches, frost bites, gangrene and injuries as high velocity winds cause temperature to plunge below many degrees below the freezing point. To give pace to the work progress, Border Roads Organization (BRO) has formed four teams and started its operation from – Gulaba, Marhi, Sissu and Darcha.
“Each team constitutes 4 snow cutters and 25 personnel including specialists and operators who are determined to restore the highway before the April 15,” commander Yogesh Nair said. “We are witnessing 8 to 15 feet snow at Gulaba camp, 23 km from Manali, but our difficulties would increase with every kilometre we move towards the Rohtang top. Snow is hard and conditions may even worst at Rahni Nullah, Beas Nullah and other avalanche prone areas.”
BRO officials were afraid of the heavy snow forecast after March 4 as in such conditions they would have to move back to the starting point to restart the operation. Glacier and avalanche points on the highway were another threat to the workers who could claim the lives. Commander said that they have discussed with the snow and avalanche study establishment (SASE) to get the exact location of dangerous points. With the phenomenon of melting and freezing of snow, it had formed the shape of semi ice which is hard to cut through. “If necessary, we may use explosives to blast the ice,” Nair said.
Literally one of the most dangerous highways of the world, Manali-Leh highway, which connects Lahaul-Spiti and Ladakh regions with Kullu, is important strategically and for tourism. Rohtang is the only gateway to Lahaul valley, which after being blocked with snow cuts off the valley from rest country for over five months. BRO has requested administration not to let the civilian vehicles beyond Palchan towards Rohtang pass for smooth running of the operation.