Shimla, Sep 30 (IANS) Closed for over a week owing to heavy snowfall, the road link between tourist resort Manali and Baralacha Pass was reopened to motorists on Sunday on completion of snow-clearing operations, an official said.
“The Baralacha Pass located at 190 km on Manali-Sarchu road reopened at 1 a.m.,” the Commander 38 of the Border Roads Task Force told IANS.
This means Sarchu, which is 222 km from Manali, has been connected to Manali via Rohtang tunnel. Work is in progress from either side to clear the Rohtang Pass too and likely to be over in a day or two.
Official sources said the snow was more than 8 feet high in some stretches close to the Baralacha Pass, posing a big challenge to those clearing the snow.
The work to reopen the entire 475-km stretch, which links Manali with Leh in Jammu and Kashmir, is also underway. Normally, the highway closes mid-October with the onset of snowfall.
This route is crucial to the movement of the Armed Forces and their supplies and wares to forward areas in Ladakh.
The Manali-Leh highway winds its way through the Rohtang Pass (13,050 feet), Baralacha Pass (16,020 feet), Lachlungla Pass (16,620 feet) and Tanglangla (17,480 feet).
The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) maintains the strategic highways in the country.
The BRO’s ‘Project Deepak’ is responsible for clearing snow on the 222-km Sarchu-Manali highway while ‘Project Himank’ takes care of the 253-km Leh-Sarchu highway.
A Himachal Road Transport Corp official told IANS that it would take at least a week to restart the bus service between Delhi and Leh via Manali and Keylong once the highway was opened to traffic.
A five-day long air rescue operation in the Lahaul Valley came to an end on Saturday with 252 people, comprising largely tourists, being evacuated safely from the snow-marooned region. Another 4,770 were rescued by road.
Heavy snowfall on the Rohtang Pass, the Kunzum Pass, and the Baralacha Pass had cut-off the Lahaul and Spiti Valleys, affecting a large number of tourists and hampering water and electricity supply.