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“The temperatures drop to as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius during the winter, while in the peak of summer it goes to about 12 degrees. Working in these conditions can be a herculean task, adding to which is the fact that glaciers shift constantly as the snow melts.”
A team from the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is currently making history by constructing the world’s first glaciated motorable road in Ladakh.
A few months ago, the BRO built a 35 km bridge that leads to Siachen, the world’s highest battlefield. The construction of the bridge was an arduous task, but the bridge is of great strategic importance. You can read more about this road here.
Here are five points you must know about the construction of the first motorable road on a glacier!
1. The road is being constructed from Sasoma to Saser La in eastern Ladakh and will connect Daulat Beg Oldi military base near the China border. “Being constructed at an altitude of over 17800 feet, [the] road from Sasoma to Saser La will be a vital link paved over glaciers which are unstable and frequently change their physical nature,” a BRO official said.
2. The construction of this road is under Project HIMANK, a project which was started by the BRO in August 1985 which is responsible for the construction of the world’s highest motorable roads.
“The Mountain Tamers” as the officials working on the project are called, were responsible for the construction of the world’s highest motorable road at 19,300 feet. They also opened the highway connecting Srinagar to Leh in May 1999, allowing India to make a strategic, timely military advance during the Kargil War. The same team is now constructing the road between Sasoma and Saser La.
3. This project is extremely challenging, and the weather conditions just push the difficulty level further. “The construction of the road is special due to challenges posed by glaciers and the presence of moraines in the area. Besides adverse weather, biting cold, bone-chilling winds, there is also the danger of crevasses and avalanches occurring while the road is being constructed,” the official explained.
4. The spokesperson further explained the weather conditions the construction workers have to endure.
“The temperatures drop to as low as minus 50 degrees Celsius during the winter, while in the peak of summer it goes to about 12 degrees. Working in these conditions can be a herculean task, adding to which is the fact that glaciers shift constantly as the snow melts,” he said.
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5. A 50 km stretch of the highway has already been constructed, and BRO officials have a very short window of opportunity to undertake the construction, due to challenging weather conditions.
“The short waiting period needs to be utilised better, to ensure effective utilisation of manpower and resources. Planning starts four to five months prior to the start of the working season,” the official said, adding that “There is little a BRO official can do to stop an ice-wall crevasse opening on what’s essentially a moving block of ice, but due to the jawans’ commitment and strategic need, we’re able to carry on forward with the project.”
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)