Leh: Border Road Organization’s ‘Project Himank’ has achieved another major feat in Ladakh by constructing the World’s highest motorable road, passing through Umlingla Top at a height of over 19,300 feet. Being close to Hanle, the 86 km strategic road connects Chisumle and Demchok villages, located 230 Kms from Leh, which are stone’s throw away from Indo-China border in the eastern sector.
Felicitating the personnel for achieving the feat, Chief Engineer Project Himank, Brigadier DM Purvimath, said constructing the road at an altitude of over 19300 feet was a daunting task with life-threatening challenges.
He said the climate at the location is always adverse for construction activities.
“During peak summer, the temperature hovers around minus 10-20 degrees Celsius, and in winter it dips to minus 40 degrees. Oxygen level at the altitude is 50 percent less than at normal places,” he said.
“Efficiency of machines and manpower declines by 50 percent due to the harsh climate and less oxygen level; the machine operators have to come down after every 10 minutes for Oxygen,” he said, adding “nobody can survive at the spot for more than an hour without proper training and acclimatizing with the place.”
The brigadier said that the logistics were a major challenge in taking men and machinery at such an altitude.
“Taking equipment at such a height, repairing and maintaining it is a major task since the equipment faced a lot of breakdowns,” he said.
He said that because of this gradation the personnel faced huge health problems like loss of memory, eyesight and high blood pressure.
“Such a construction does not come without a cost, but given the national and strategic importance of the road our men and machinery worked overnight to meet the targets set out by Director General Border Roads.” Brig. Pointed out.
The BRO personnel are acclimatised through a tedious process and a lot of training before assigning the job, said Commander 753 BRTF, Pradeep Raj, who looks after the road construction of this sector.
“Acclimatisation of men is done at three stages- at Leh, Shakti and Numa- before being inducted into the sector. The physical and mental fitness of men is emphasized upon for working in the area as the working season is limited in the region,” Commander said and added the planning of work in the area is done long before its execution to achieve desired results.
Captain Bharat Mani Choudhury, a doctor, who takes care of the health of the jawans in the entire sector said that it is compulsory for GREFF personnel and labourers to acclimatize at three different stages for a period of 16 days before taking over the job.
“Blood pressure and Oxygen level of each jawan are frequently monitored,” he said and added facility of Oxygen was kept at different places during emergency.
“The personnel are instructed to avoid drinking stream water, consume least spicy foods and take ten liters of water daily,” he said.
Captain Abhay Partap Singh Negi, OIC 124 RCC, said it is a proud moment and a dream come true.
“It took me three months to settle and acclimatize with the environment. It gives me immense pleasure to drive on the world’s highest motorable road,” he said, adding, “Mental and motivational strength is must for the jawans as the area is one stage less than Siachan in climate.”
Project Himank has already constructed roads like Khardangula at an altitude of 17900 ft and Changla Passes at an altitude of 17695 ft in Leh by connecting Nobra valley and Durbuk valley in the cold desert.