NEW DELHI: The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has begun opening the Baralacha La Pass much before the schedule to gain strategic advantages over the adversaries.
Baralacha La Pass is a high mountain pass in the Zanskar range connecting Lahaul district in Himachal Pradesh to Leh district in Ladakh, situated along the Leh–Manali Highway.
Lt Gen Rajeev Chaudhry, VSM DGBR, said, “This is the first time in history that we are going to open the pass ahead of the scheduled time.” The task was difficult due to heavy snow accumulation over a very large area making access to the point of activities tough.
The BRO said, “The recce for the deployment of snow clearance team from Sitingiri to Sarchu was carried out on March 3 with an aim to induct manpower to clear Baralacha La pass using two attack points i.e. from Patsio and Sarchu side each, thus clearing the pass in an early time frame and achieving connectivity to Leh.” But, in these areas, the weather conditions dictate the movement.
Air induction of the team in subsequent days could not take place due to adverse weather conditions.
Talking about the steps taken to initiate the process, the BRO officer said, “To avoid further delay in inducting the team to Sarchu by air, it was decided to march the party on foot away at 185 km where the equipment are already stocked in the mothballed state towards Sarchu Dett (approx 20km) .”
The team got a small window in its third attempt after failing in the first two attempts. The team (fully stocked with ration, spare parts, communication equipment) comprising of one JE and five personnel marched on foot on the morning of March 11 but came back due to heavy snowfall enroute. The crossing of Baralacha La at 16,000 ft was again attempted on March 12. However, the team has to revert back due to snowfall and poor visibility.
When a slight window was available on March 13, the team attempted and succeeded in crossing Baralacha La after crossing a number of avalanches enroute. However, since it was getting dark, they had to halt 7 km short of the Sarchu detachment to spend the night amid bone-chilling temperatures and snow blizzards.
Finally, they reached the destination on March 14 after a treacherous march of 20 km in 15-20 feet of snow. This feat has been achieved for the first time and it is expected that the Manali-Leh road route will be opened before April 15.
The major economic and military activities from and to the Union Territory of Ladakh take place by road routes but they remain closed due to heavy snowfall for about 6 months in a year. Also, Ladakh is strategically important for it shares borders with Pakistan, Afghanistan, and China.
The area of Eastern Ladakh has been the site of standoff with China since the month of May 2020.