Bhaderwah/Jammu: The 168-km Bhaderwah-Basohli-Pathankot National Highway is likely to reopen for normal traffic by mid-June as the snow-clearance work, which got delayed due to the COVID-19 lockdown, resumed in full steam, Border Roads Organisation (BRO) officials said on Saturday.
The resumption of snow-clearance operation coincided with the easing of lockdown restrictions and the BRO personnel are working till late evening to ensure early restoration of the highway, Officer Commanding 144 Road Construction Company (RCC) of BRO Pramod Kumar told PTI.
He said the machines have successfully cut through the snow and ice walls of Guldanda to Chattargala located at a height of 14,600 ft above the sea level, the most difficult stretch of the road where snow depth is over 20 feet.
“Jawans from Sarthal side of Kathua district will clear the road till Chattargala within four days but it may take at least one more week for other BRO team to reach the pass from Bhadarwah side,” Kumar said adding they were still cutting 10 to 20 feet deep snow and have reached nearly one km beyond Chattargala pass.
In December 2017, the Centre had cleared a proposal for construction of Chhattergala tunnel to provide an alternate highway, far away from the International Border or Line of Control (LoC), connecting Kashmir with the rest of the country.
The Jammu-Pathankot highway provides an all-weather link but it passes close to the International Border (IB), especially in Kathua and Samba districts.
“Our jawans are doing their best. The weather has again turned inclement but our machines are unstoppable. Our focus is on connecting Bhadarwah with Pathankot in the next couple of days,” Commander of 35 Border Roads Task Force S Murthy said.
After completing the job, the focus would be on clearing all the snow from the 20 km stretch to make it fully motorable for both way traffic by June 15, he said.
Hundreds of people crossed the Chattargala pass on foot to reach Bhaderwah from Punjab and Himachal Pradesh besides adjoining Kathua and Samba districts ever since the lockdown came into effect in March.
The district administration of Doda set up special check points to identify such travelers as part of efforts to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The travelers were subjected to COVID-19 testing and kept in institutional quarantine.
“Bhadarwah-Pathankot road is the main stay of our economy and everyone gets benefited from this link directly or indirectly as a majority of our business transactions is with Punjab. We are hopeful that BRO will open this link without any further delay,” a local businessman said.