Srinagar-Leh Highway Reopens After Four Months

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Kargil- The 434-km Srinagar-Leh national highway, considered as the lifeline of the Union Territory of Ladakh, was reopened on Saturday to ferry essential commodities after remaining closed for over four months owing to heavy snowfall along the Zojila Pass.

In view of the coronavirus outbreak, the Ladakh administration on Friday had decided to only allow limited traffic, including trucks and oil tankers, to replenish essential supplies in the cold desert which usually remains cut off from the outside world during the winter months.

The strategic highway, the only road connecting Ladakh with Jammu and Kashmir, was reopened to carry essential commodities to Ladakh region. The highway was closed in December last year due to incessant snowfall at 11,500 feet high Zojila Pass, an official of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) said.

As per the directions from Divisional Commissioner, Ladakh, Saugat Biswas, there was an emergent need to carry essential commodities to Ladakh UT, the official said, adding, Keeping that in mind, a team of project Beacon cleared the fresh snow at the Zojila Pass and made the road motorable. About 18 oil tankers and other essential commodities have been allowed to move towards Ladakh from Sonamarg.

He said the snowfall this year had broken all records of the past decade but the clearance operations were undertaken by project Beacon of BRO from Gagangir to zero point and the same was done by project Vijayak from Drass towards zero point to ensure early reopening of the highway.

The BRO was very much determined to open the highway keeping in view the importance of this road and had managed to clear the road of the accumulated snow by March 15, the official said.

However, he said the Ladakh administration decided against opening the road in view of the coronavirus outbreak, while the Zojila pass again received heavy snowfall on April 1 and 2 which resulted in its closure again.

According to an order issued by the Divisional Commissioner, Ladakh, only a limited number of trucks and oil tankers carrying essential commodities will be allowed to cross through Zojila Pass till further orders.

The traffic on the highway will ply alternatively from Ladakh and Sonarmag side, a government official said, quoting the order, which also set several conditions for the truckers like they will camp at Sonamarg on the previous evening of movement or early morning by 8:00 am on the date of movement.

In case of cancellation of movement on a particular date due to bad weather, the number of trucks and tankers scheduled for that particular date would be allowed to cross over Zojila on the next day, the officials said, adding that the essential commodities will be transferred from the trucks to local vehicles arranged by an indenting agency at Minamarg, at the location identified by the Deputy Commissioner of Kargil.

The requisitioning of essential commodities, their quantity, agency through which the commodities will be procured, mechanism for transhipment and further distribution in all areas of both districts will be fixed and monitored by the respective Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Councils, the official said.

He said the LAHDC of Leh and Kargil would get furnished the list of trucks crossing Zojila Pass on a scheduled date, their registration numbers, name of the driver and one additional staff and their particulars to the Inspector General of Police, Ladakh at least two days before the scheduled date of crossing the Zojila Pass.

Only such drivers/helpers shall be allowed to cross Zojila Pass whose name and particulars are provided in advance to the IGP, Ladakh, the official said.

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