At -20 degrees, under 20-ft of snow, Border Roads Organisation clears Rohtang Pass
In a first, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) threw open the 13,050-foot-high Rohtang Pass on Tuesday after clearing about 20 feet of snow accumulated over the week.
Usually, Rohtang Pass is officially closed for traffic on November 15 and reopened in May for which snow clearance begins in March. This is for the first time that the BRO took up the challenge to clear the stretch after intermittent snowfall.
“The pass is open for traffic now. It’s for the civil administration to decide on whether they allow vehicles or not through the pass,” said 38 Border Road Task Force commander Uma Shankar.
The BRO pressed into service snow-cutters, earth-moving machines and nearly 60 men to clear the stretch on the 480-km highway that connects Manali in Himachal Pradesh to Leh in the Union territory of Ladakh. The highway was blocked since the snowfall on November 25.
High-velocity winds, blizzards and the threat of avalanches made the snow clearance tough. “There has been a continuous blizzard in the region. It’s difficult for men to work when high-velocity winds are blowing. The temperature is 20 degrees below freezing point and there are places where more than 20 feet of snow is accumulated,” Shankar said, listing out the odds that his team overcame.
Hundreds of people in the tribal belt of Lahaul and Spiti were stuck at home after the pass was closed though many migrate to Kullu and Manali in winter.
The civil administration in Manali, however, decided not to allow traffic on the highway due to ice on the road. “The roads are slippery so we can’t allow traffic for the moment,” said Manali sub divisional magistrate Raman Garsanghi.
Soldiers rescued eight people in a sports utility vehicle from Koksar on Monday night after a blizzard. They were on their way from Lahaul to Manali.