Snow clearing work begins on Manali-Leh highway

March 1st, 2011 - 11:45 am ICT by IANS  

Sonia Gandhi Manali, March 1 (IANS) Snow-clearing operations started Tuesday to restore road connectivity between this Himachal Pradesh town and Leh in Jammu and Kashmir, an official said here.”Snow-clearing operations started on the 475 km-long Manali-Leh National Highway-21,” Praveen Yernurkar, officer commanding of the General Reserve Engineering Force’s (GREF) 38 Task Force, told IANS.

The GREF is a wing of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) that maintains crucial highways in the country.

Three independent teams were deployed for reopening the 222-km Manali-Rohtang-Sarchu section of the highway.

“The entire road connectivity between Manali-Leh is likely to be restored by mid-May, but the Rohtang Pass will be re-opened for traffic by April 15,” he added.

The Rohtang Pass, the gateway to the Lahaul Valley, has been closed to traffic since late December last year due to heavy snowfall.

“At present, some of the road stretches along the Rohtang Pass has more than 15 feet of snow accumulation,” another GREF official said.

Located 52 km from here, the Rohtang Pass also plays an important role in the movement of the armed forces to the forward areas in Ladakh.

Lahaul Valley, comprising more than two dozen small, scattered villages, remains cut off for more than five months, owing to heavy snow accumulation on the 13,050 feet high Rohtang Pass, the only route that connects the valley with Manali.

The weather at the Rohtang Pass is harsh. A sudden drop in the temperature, even in summer, can trigger winter-like conditions.

The foundation stone of the 8.80-km horseshoe shaped tunnel beneath the Rohtang Pass was laid by Congress president Sonia Gandhi June 28, 2010.

The tunnel that will ensure round-the-year link between Manali and Lahaul Valley is expected to be completed by 2015.

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