Zojila: The 434-km Srinagar-Leh highway, the only road connecting the Kashmir Valley with the frontier region of Ladakh, was thrown open to vehicular traffic on Friday after remaining closed for four months owing to heavy snowfall during winter.
The highway was jointly thrown open for the traffic by Lieutenant General J S Sandhu, General-Officer-Commanding of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps and Lieutenant General P J S Pannu, GOC of the Leh-based 14 Corps, in Zojila.
Complementing the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) personnel on the opening of the road by braving adverse weather conditions in extremely difficult and risky terrain, Lt Gen Sandhu said the sustenance of the people in Ladakh and Kargil depends on the highway.
“My compliments to the teams of Project Beacon and Project Vijayak who have worked day and night for the past one month to clear the road. This is the handshake between the 14 and 15 Corps, it is a handshake between Ladakh, Kargil and Kashmir. And this handshake is also the lifeline.
“Now, we will find vegetables, fruits going towards Kargil and Ladakh. Petrol, diesel and all the rations will go to these areas. The sustenance of the people depends upon this (highway),” he said.
The army commander said the BRO faced many challenges during the clearing of the snow on the road.
“I do remember there were major avalanches in Sonamarg and we had to pull out from there. In Gagangeer area, it was difficult, the snow was so much that they could only clear 300-400 metres a day. But I am glad that finally the road is open,” he said.
The highway remained open for an extended period in the last season. It was closed on January 3 this year.
The snow clearance operation this year was a big challenge as about 30-40 feet of snow had accumulated at Zojila.
The strategic highway cuts through the 11,516-feet high Zojila Pass which lies on the lower depressions of the Himalayan ranges, some 107 kms from Srinagar the summer capital of the state.
The pass attracts the heaviest snowfall during winter and as such it remains closed to traffic usually for five to six months every year.
Meanwhile, divisional commissioner Kashmir said the movement of traffic from Drass will be allowed from 3 am and vehicles would have to cross Minamarg at 9 am. He said no vehicle will be allowed to proceed afterwards.
After the last vehicle crosses Sonamarg from Dress side, traffic will be allowed from 11 am to 4 pm towards Drass.
He said the general public is requested to contact 0194-2485396, 2450022(TPCR Srinagar), 9419091281 (SSP Traffic Rural) and 9419604702 (DSP Traffic Ganderbal) for assistance or enquiry.