The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has opened the Rohtang Pass situated at an altitude of 13,500 feet above sea level, on Saturday, more than three weeks in advance amid the Covid-19 lockdown after clearing snow. The pass was opened on May 18 last year. Situated around 50 km from Manali, the Rohtang Pass connects Kullu valley with Lahaul and Spiti, which in turn provide access to Leh. It’s open only from May to November for motor vehicles and it’s so dangerous that the Government of India is building an 8.8 km tunnel as an alternative to the route. It is the arterial road connecting Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh with rest of the country. Rohtang Pass is heavily used for military movement too.
The Himachal Pradesh government had approached the BRO to expedite the snow clearance to facilitate the return of farmers for starting cultivation and for the movement of essential supplies and to bring relief material to Lahaul Valley in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak.
The BRO inducted hi-tech machinery from both Manali and Khoksar. Snow blizzards, freezing temperatures and frequent triggering of avalanches at Rahala Fall, Beas Nallah and Rani Nallah did delay the operations but the snow clearance teams kept on working relentlessly day and night, while taking all Covid-19 precautions, to provide relief to the residents of Lahaul valley.
The first convoy of vehicles carrying essential supplies and approximately 150 farmers moved to Lahual Valley on Saturday, guided by the BRO, thus officially opening the Rohtang Pass this year. The news of Rohtang Pass being opened for traffic 25 days in advance as compared to the previous year has brought immense relief amongst the local population. This will facilitate the Central and State governments to bring much needed relief material and medical supplies for the local population. Also, agricultural activities that are the backbone of the area can now recommence.
Snow clearance operation for the opening of the pass is carried out every year as the pass remains snow bound for almost six months, i.e. from mid-November to mid-May. It was kept open till December 12, 2019. The complete valley remains dependent on air maintenance for any external supplies during the winter.