Srinagar, Feb 12: The Srinagar-Leh national highway, a crucial link connecting the Kashmir valley with Ladakh reopened for vehicular traffic on Monday in a record time of 15 days after its closure on January 28 this year following heavy snowfall.
A BRO Spokesman told Rising Kashmir that snow clearance operations along the 434-kilometer-long highway were completed on Sunday evening, with the help of men and state-of-the-art machinery.
He said that the trial movement was conducted successfully on Sunday with the help of BRO and VIJAYAK. The decision to open the road for civil traffic was taken after the joint inspection by the civil administration on Monday.
The spokesman said that it is the longest period in recent years that the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has been able to keep the critical road open aided by negligible, or in some places almost nil, snow and the latest technology.
On Monday, ten vehicles from the Kargil-Sonamarg and 27 vehicles from the Srinagar-Kargil routes crossed the Zojila axis. Furthermore, 160 passengers crossed the Zojila Axis. Besides that, ten vehicles were sent by the District Administration Kargil to Srinagar to pick up the passengers including students.
Reacting to this development, Chairman and Chief Executive Councilor, LAHDC, Kargil, Dr Mohd Jaffer Akhoon expressed gratitude to all the concerned stakeholders for the resumption of vehicular movement on Zojila Pass.
While talking to Rising Kashmir, CEC Dr Akhoon expressed his gratitude to the UT Administration, ADGP Ladakh Police, concerned Officers of Project Vijayak and Beacon besides District Administration including Deputy Commissioner Kargil and SP Kargil for close coordination and execution in the reopening of Zojila Pass and in the smooth movement of vehicular movement.
He also applauded the efforts of workers and operators of BRO working on Zojila Axis despite harsh climatic conditions and paving the way to the reopening of the strategic pass.
Located at an altitude of 11,650 feet, ZojiLa is a strategic pass that provides a vital link between Kashmir Valley and Ladakh and is the key to the operational preparedness of the Armed Forces.
The Leh-Srinagar highway was closed for traffic on January 28 as substantial snow accumulated on the Zojila Pass stretch.
Every year, the BRO is involved in snow clearance operations in tough weather conditions to keep the Zojila Pass, located at 11,800 feet altitude, open as there is a minimum of 30-40 feet of snow from mid-December onwards.
In the winter of 2020-21, the road was closed to traffic on December 31, 2020; in 2021-22, it was closed on January 4, 2022; and in 2022-23, it was closed on January 6, 2023, according to BRO records.
The BRO maintains 27 high-altitude snow-bound passes in the Ladakh sector. Each year, it aims at reducing the number of days that these passes are closed for traffic. With rising temperatures and lesser snowfall, traditionally Zojila and other passes were opened in April or sometimes even in May.
A traffic police spokesman said subject to fair weather and road clearance, only one-way traffic for all LMVs with Anti-skid Chains shall be allowed from Minamarg towards Sonamarg from 1000hrs to 1300 hrs only from TCP Minamarg, thereafter strictly no vehicles shall be allowed.