Zojila- The strategic 434-km Srinagar-Leh national highway was re-opened for vehicular traffic on Saturday in record time of 73 days after its closure in January this year following heavy snowfall, officials said.
A trial movement was conducted successfully, and the decision to open the road for civil traffic will be taken after a joint inspection by the civil administration.
The highway was thrown open for traffic at the Zojila Pass, situated at an altitude of 11,650 feet metres, by Director General of BRO Lt Gen Rajeev Chaudhary, the officials said.
Zojila is a strategic pass that provides a vital link between the Kashmir valley and Ladakh, and it is key to operational preparedness of the armed forces. It remains closed mostly for about six months due to heavy snowfall. This year, it was cleared off in record time, they said.
"This pass remains closed mostly for about six months. But last year, we decided to keep it closed for a minimum period of time. We kept it closed for about 110 days only last year and there were many benefits. This year, we re-opened the road in 73 days," Lt Gen Chaudhary told reporters here.
He said the highway was kept open till January 4 this year, after which it was closed for traffic following heavy snowfall.
"It has now been re-opened in record time. This is a huge achievement and both Project Beacon, which manages the highway in J-K, and Project Vijayak, which manages it in Ladakh UT, have done it," he said.
The BRO DG said re-opening the highway sooner has many advantages strategically as well as from the socio-economic angle.
"From the strategic point of view, maintenance, including ammunition, logistics or anything else, for our troops deployed in Ladakh will reach in time now. It will also expedite the transportation of fresh vegetables, medicines etc to the people of Ladakh. This will increase trade and commerce there, and people are very happy," he said.
Lt Gen Chaudhary said a study found that the government can save around Rs 7 crore per day by opening the road sooner.
"We saved about Rs 400 crore -- the money spent on air transportation -- by reopening the road sooner," he added.
A defence spokesperson said snow clearance operations on the highway recommenced on February 15 by projects Beacon and Vijayak of the BRO.
After sustained efforts, the connectivity across Zojila Pass was initially established on March 3, and after that, improvement of road surface was carried out for safe passage of vehicles, he said.
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