The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has successfully reopened the strategic Zojila Pass in the Greater Himalayan Range. The Pass is situated at an altitude of 11,650 feet. The Zojila pass, which serves as a gateway between the Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir, was opened on March 16, 2023, after relentless snow clearance operations in tough weather conditions. This ensured that the Pass remained closed for only 68 days this year, as compared to 73 days last year and 160-180 days in the past.
Due to heavy snowfall and harsh weather conditions, the pass remains closed for most of the year, making it one of the most challenging roads to maintain and operate in the world. However, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) undertakes snow clearance operations to keep the pass open for traffic during the short summer season, facilitating the movement of people and goods across the region.
Snow clearance operations were undertaken from both sides of the pass under Project Beacon in J&K and Vijayak in Ladakh, starting from the first week of February 2023.
Launched in the 1960s, Project Beacon is the BRO’s oldest undertaking. Beacon currently takes care of the road infrastructure development and maintenance in important areas of Kashmir. Project Vijayak was initiated by the BRO in 2010 in Ladakh to take care of the construction and maintenance of critical roads in Ladakh, along with Project Himank.
After sustained efforts, the connectivity across the Zoji La Pass was initially established on March 11, 2023. Thereafter, efforts were made to improve road conditions for the safe passage of vehicles.
Zojila Pass is an essential route for traders, pilgrims, and tourists. It connects the towns of Leh in Ladakh and Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir. It is also significant for the Indian Armed Forces as it provides access to the Siachen Glacier and is crucial in the defence of the region. The reopening of the pass after the winter season is always a crucial event in the region, as it signifies the restoration of connectivity between the two Union Territories and facilitates the movement of people and goods across the region.
Similarly, the Razdan Pass, which provides the only road connectivity between the Gurez sector and the Kashmir Valley, has also been successfully reopened on March 16, 2023, after a gap of just 58 days. Other significant passes, such as Sadhna, Pharkiyan Gali, and Zamindar Gali, have remained open throughout the winter season.
According to Lt Gen Rajeev Chaudhry, VSM, DGBR, the early opening of the Zojila and Razdan Passes will facilitate the supply of essential goods and services for the people of Ladakh and the Gurez Valley. Commending the efforts of Project Beacon and Project Vijayak, he said, “The Karamyogis of Project Beacon and Project Vijayak have achieved this feat.”
Lt Gen Chaudhry further said that the trial movement of vehicles has been conducted successfully, and the decision to open the road for civil traffic will be taken by the Civil Administration after the conduct of a joint inspection. The reopening of these passes is a significant achievement for the BRO, as it will allow for better connectivity between the two Union Territories and facilitate the movement of people and goods.