Army Moots Tunnels To Facilitate All-weather Road Link To Ladakh

31 August 2014
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Ajay Banerjee

New Delhi: In what promises to change the lives of people of Ladakh and add to India's military preparedness, the Army has proposed construction of two tunnels to facilitate all-weather road connectivity to the cold desert. Army teams have completed a survey of alternative routes to Ladakh and have recommended two fresh alignments. The move comes as the two existing roads - one from Srinagar and other from Manali - have many strategically sensitive spots and remain closed for seven months of the year, between October and April, due to heavy snowfall in the higher passes. The first option is to use the existing 80-km trekking route between Karzok in southern Ladakh and Kaza in Lahaul Spiti, Himachal Pradesh and convert it into a full-fledged road. The existing track leading to north of Karzok towards Leh is an all-weather road. The road that runs south of Kaza is also all-weather and passes through Pooh-Rampur-Shimla-Chandigarh. The 18,300-foot-high Parang La (pass) is obstructing the road connectivity between Karzok and Kaza. To overcome the hindrance, the Army has suggested to construct a tunnel under the pass to open a 24x7 route. Secondly, the Army has proposed to connect Padum in Zanskar, Ladakh, with the existing road (70 km away from it) in Himachal Pradesh, separated by high mountains. The Army has suggested that the existing jeep track from Padum to the base of the 16,700-foot-high Shingo-La on the Zanskar side be metalled and a tunnel be made under the pass that will open near Chikka village in Lahaul Spiti. Not far from this spot is the existing road meandering down from Keylong to Chamba towards Pathankot. The proposed move, if it materialises, will be a boon for the remote Zanskar region besides providing an alternative shorter route to Kargil, which is already connected with Padum. The new routes have lesser snow and roads are at lower altitudes. In Ladakh, which used to have prolonged winters, Army equipment and men can only be moved onboard the daily flights of IL-76 from Chandigarh and in case of a war-like scenario, the air effort will be the only option. One of the existing routes is Jammu-Srinagar-Sonamarg-Dras-Kargil-Leh - dotted by the Zojila pass and the 'Z-Morh'- receives heavy snowfall. Both the passes require tunnelling. The other route, Manali-Keylong-Leh, is dotted with one of the highest motorable passes which are open only for four months or so, that too with engineering efforts. Two routes proposed: Army teams have surveyed alternative routes to Ladakh and recommended two fresh alignments. The first option is to use the existing 80-km trekking route between Karzok in southern Ladakh and Kaza in Lahaul Spiti, Himachal Pradesh and convert it into a full-fledged road. The Army has also suggested that the existing jeep track from Padum to the base of the 16,700-foot-high Shingo-La Zanskar, Ladakh, be metalled and a tunnel be made under the pass that will open near Chikka village in Lahaul Spiti.