Srinagar, April 15: The vital road link between Jammu and Kashmir’s summer capital Srinagar and the landlocked Ladakh region of the state was thrown open to vehicular traffic on Tuesday after remaining closed for winter months.
It is for the first time that the 434-km road has been reopen as early as mid-April. It used to be generally opened for traffic in June. Last year also, the opening of the road was advanced to May 1, which was then the earliest time to have the highway thrown open after prolonged closure during winter.
Chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad flagged off a fleet of Srinagar bound vehicles from zero point near Gumri across Zoji-la, marking the earliest annual opening of the Srinagar-Leh highway after remaining closed for the winter. He met engineers, workers and jawans of Beacon and Himank projects of the Border Roads Organisation maintaining the highway and appreciated their efforts to ensure its early opening. He said, "This is an important road link as it connects the Ladakh region with rest of the state and country." He added that its early opening has significance for the people and hoped that this would help dispatch of essentials sooner to this mountainous region and also promote tourism activities.
The major mountainous and most difficult portion of the road from Sonamarg (2,740 metres) lying at the foothills of Zoji-la to Leh (3,510 metres) traversing through Fatula (4,119 metres) was constructed by the Project Beacon.
Project Beacon keeps the stretch from Srinagar to Gagangir (72 km) open throughout the year while Project Himank keeps the stretch from Leh to Drass (147 km) open throughout the year.
Zoji-la (pass) was closed on December 10, 2007 when the region began receiving heavy snowfall. The "summer snow clearance" along the road began on February 21 this year.
Later speaking at a public rally at Drass, the second coldest inhabited place in the world and about 146 km northeast of here, the chief minister the all-time earliest opening of Srinagar-Leh highway was indicative of how much the state and the Central governments were concerned about taking steps to mitigate the difficulties of the people of Ladakh region.