Last mile connectivity along LAC gains pace
In February, the Defence Ministry informed Parliament that the BRO constructed 144.41 km of roads in Uttarakhand and 55.17 km in Himachal last year.
NEW DELHI: Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is busy linking the remote and secluded areas along the northern frontier to ensure that the Indian Army is able to counter the Chinese movements which happen at ‘different places very quickly’.
“We have been able to connect the major areas of all the sectors with good roads. The focus now is to launch smaller bridges and complete the arterial road links to penetrate the most difficult areas and provide the last leg connectivity,” said a source in the security establishment. As tapering peaks, deep gorges and valleys make the construction of road difficult, bridges in such areas play a vital link, said the source. “We are focusing on bridges especially near deep gorges in all the sectors.”
The 3,488 km long Line of Actual Control (LAC) is divided into eastern sector (Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim), central sector (Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh) and western sector (Ladakh). The average height ranges from 10,000 ft at Arunachal Pradesh to over 18,700 ft at Karakoram Pass.
After the 2020 Ladakh stand-off, India and China currently maintain a combined deployment of over 1 lakh soldiers along with a massive presence of tanks and artillery. Roads are integral to maintain such heavy deployment, even as high altitude and rarefied atmosphere makes construction activities difficult.
The focus is on procurement of modern construction plants, equipment and machinery to enhance the pace of construction warranted by strategic imperatives.
Understandably, the BRO’s capital budget was increased by 40% from Rs 2,500 cr in 2021-22 to Rs 3,500 cr in 2022-23. While increased funding will be used for better upkeep of strategic roads, it will also give a major boost to construction of important roads, tunnels and bridges along the northern and north-eastern borders.
In February, the Defence Ministry informed Parliament that the BRO constructed 144.41 km of roads in Uttarakhand and 55.17 km in Himachal last year. Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim saw construction of 149.98 km and 69.46 km roads, respectively. “The focus on states bordering China will continue,” said a BRO officer.
As per the BRO, 102 infrastructure projects —including the world’s highest motorable road in Ladakh at an altitude of 19,024 ft — were completed in 2021-22. In December last year, the BRO launched nine bridges in J&K, five each in Ladakh and Himachal, three in Uttarakhand and one each in Sikkim and Arunachal.
The BRO also has been focussing on early opening of passes. Shingo La (16,700 ft), connecting Zanskar and Lahaul valleys, was opened on April 16, a record 50 days earlier than previous years. In Sikkim too, Zadong- Donkyala-Kerang road at altitudes ranging between 15,000-18,000 ft was opened almost two months ahead of the expected timelines.