Amid border row, Ladakh infra to gain heft with new strategic road to Depsang, DBO : The Tribune India

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Amid border row, Ladakh infra to gain heft with new strategic road to Depsang, DBO

Amid border row, Ladakh infra to gain heft with new strategic road to Depsang, DBO


Tribune News Service

Ajay Banerjee

New Delhi, June 8

In a significant move, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) today issued a tender to start making a 4-km-long concrete road near Saser La, a 17,800-foot-high pass in the Karakoram mountains in eastern Ladakh.

Alternative route to Sub-Sector North

  • 4-km-long concrete road to be built near Saser La, a 17,800-ft-high pass in eastern Ladakh
  • The road will be part of 56-km military-usable road connecting Sasoma, Saser La & Murgo
  • New road will be alternative axis to reach Depsang & Daulat Baig Oldie in vital Sub-Sector North

This concrete portion will be part of the 56-km military-usable road connecting Sasoma, Saser La and Murgo (shown in map). The tender uploaded on the website of the BRO, which comes under the Ministry of Defence, seeks to get the work done within 180 days. Since the terrain is unforgiving, the BRO aims to get pre-fabricated and inter-locking concrete blocks for the construction.

Tunnel on the cards too

The Ministry of Defence is also looking to have a tunnel under the Saser La; a detailed project report is being prepared

The new alignment is an alternative axis to reach Depsang and Daulat Baig Oldie (DBO) in the vital Sub-Sector North (SSN) along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh. A dirt track was activated on the Sasoma-Murgo route in August 2020 during the peak of military standoff with China. Since then, the BRO worked to widen the track. Two months ago, it sought bids to black-top 43 km of the Sasoma-Saser La-Murgo stretch. The bids invited today are for laying concrete road on the 4-km stretch. The remaining 9 km of the 56-km road is already in a usable condition. The work on making the alignment usable militarily kick-started after May 2022, when the National Board for Wildlife allowed the road through 55 hectares of Karakoram Wildlife Sanctuary.

The road is vital as the existing alignment towards the SSN in Ladakh hinges on the 255-km Darbuk-Shyok-DBO (DSDBO) road. Supplies to the area come through the DSDBO road or are air-supplied.

The Indian Army has considered a scenario that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China could make a westward thrust into the 16,000-foot-high Depsang plains in the SSN.

The PLA could threaten a section of the DSDBO road. It could also attempt to cut off the DBO, which could restrict access to the Karakoram pass. The PLA could also make a bid to access the Saser La, which would further open a route to Sasoma.

The Indian defensive positions on the SSN have been “built” to hold back the PLA with tanks, artillery guns and the latest systems, besides additional troops. Since May 2020, thousands of troops are stationed by either side on their side of the LAC. Holding onto the SSN and particularly the Depsang plains is vital. For this, the DSDBO road is the crucial link. The new alignment Sasoma-Saser La-Murgo will provide additional access to the SSN.

The MoD is also looking to have a tunnel under the Saser La. A detailed project report is being prepared.

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