The strategic Rohtang Pass on the Manali-Leh road axis in Himachal Pradesh was thrown open Saturday, three weeks ahead of the normal schedule, by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO).
Dr Ram Lal Markanda, Minister for Agriculture and Tribal Development and Secretary Food and Civil Supplies of Himachal Pradesh led the first convoy of vehicles carrying essential supplies and some 150 farmers to Lahaul Valley.
The news of Rohtang Pass being opened has brought relief amongst the local population. It will facilitate the Union and State governments to bring much-needed relief material and medical supplies for the local population. Also, the agriculture activities in the district can now recommence.
The snow clearance operation for the opening of Rohtang Pass (13,500 ft) is carried out every year. The pass remains snow bound for almost six months — from mid November to mid May — thus isolating Lahaul and Spiti from rest of the country. Last year, the Rohtang Pass was kept open till December 12. The valley remains dependent on air maintenance for any external logistics or supplies during winters.
According to Lt Gen Harpal Singh, on April 11, Markanda approached the BRO to expedite the snow clearance to facilitate return of farmers to start cultivation and movement of essential supplies and relief material to Lahaul Valley in wake of COVID-19.
“BRO inducted hi-tech machinery from both Manali and Khoksar side. Snow blizzards, freezing temperatures and frequent triggering of avalanches at Rahala Fall, Beas Nallah and Rani Nallah did delay the operations but the snow clearance teams kept on working relentlessly day and night,” said Lt Gen Harpal.
Meanwhile, the ongoing work on the 8.8-km Atal Tunnel below the Rohtang Pass, which was also stalled when the lockdown came into force, has recommenced.
Since the construction of tunnel is at a critical stage, proactive measures were taken to recommence the work in active coordination with the state government, say BRO officials. Works on all critical activities ot Atal Tunnel have commenced with all necessary COVID-19 precautions in place to ensure its completion in September as planned.
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