Double way access to Ladakh

Tunnels planned under Baralacha, Shinkula Pass

The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has mulled a tunnel under the 15,000-ft-high snowbound Baralacha Pass and another tunnel under the Shinkula Pass in Lahaul-Spiti to establish a double-way all-weather access to the freezing war zone in the Ladakh sector.

editorial@tribune.com

Kuldeep Chauhan

Tribune News Service

Shimla, December 14

The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has mulled a tunnel under the 15,000-ft-high snowbound Baralacha Pass and another tunnel under the Shinkula Pass in Lahaul-Spiti to establish a double-way all-weather access to the freezing war zone in the Ladakh sector.

The BRO (Deepak Project) has already done the feasibility study. Even the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG), Dehradun, and the Geological Survey of India (GSI) had conducted surveys for the feasibility study last year, said sources in the BRO.

“We have proposed an all-weather double-way access to the Ladakh sector from the Lahaul-Spiti side on 473-km-long Manali-Leh National Highway-22,” said BRO (Deepak Project) Chief Engineer Brig SK Kataria (retd). “We have proposed two major tunnels – one under the Baralacha Pass and another under the Shinkula Pass,” he added.

The highway will bifurcate at Darcha in the Bagha valley, 25 km from Keylong, to the Shinkula Pass that will lead to the Zanskar valley in the Ladakh sector. “The second access will be through the Darcha-Patseo-Zing Zing Bar-Baralacha Pass-Serchu to Leh,” Kataria added. “The GSI and WIHG have done their feasibility studies, but have yet to submit the report to the BRO,” Kataria said. “We will weigh the pros and cons of the feasibility studies before taking a final call on the proposed projects,” he said.

The Darcha-Shinkula-Zanskar route receives less snowfall and can be an easier all-weather approach to Ladakh in winter, say BRO engineers. The BRO has already started work from the Darcha side as this project was conceived much earlier, along with the 8.82-km-long Rohtang tunnel that will connect Lahaul with the Kullu valley permanently, they say.

“We have proposed to construct the two strategic tunnels under the Baralacha Pass, which remains closed for six months in winter and the Shinkula Pass, which also remains snowbound, for all-weather connectivity to Ladakh,” Kataria said.

The BRO has planned this double-way access to facilitate increased movement of troops to the Ladakh-Kargil war zone meeting the crucial defence requirements of the country, say BRO engineers.

When the Pakistani intruders attacked the forward posts on the Srinagar-Zozila Pass-Kargil highway from higher ranges in the 1999 Kargil war, the Manali-Leh came in handy as a crucial and more secure alternate land route to the war zone feeding essential military supplies to troops, said BRO officials.

Similarly, the BRO has constructed three major links from Powari-Pooh-Kaurik National Highway-21 to the Indo-China border. These are: the 5-km-long Chupam-Shipkila; 20-km-long Kaurik- Pong; and the 7-km-long Kaurik-Lepacha road. The tarring work on these roads has been completed, says Kataria.

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