Manali, May 23 (IANS) The highway that connects this Himachal Pradesh tourist resort with Leh in Jammu and Kashmir has been partially reopened for traffic after remaining shut for more than five months owing to heavy snow, an official said.
“The traffic between Manali and Leh was restored for small vehicles on Sunday,” an official of the 38 Task Force of the General Reserve Engineering Force (GREF) told IANS.
GREF is a wing of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) that maintains crucial highways in the country.
He said work to repair the entire 475-km stretch was on and the highway would reopen for heavy vehicles in 10 days.
The Manali-Leh highway winds its way through the Rohtang Pass (13,050 ft), Baralacha Pass (16,020 ft), Lachlungla Pass (16,620 ft) and Tanglangla (17,480 ft).
It is crucial to the movement of the armed forces and their supplies and wares to forward areas in Ladakh.
An official of the Himachal Road Transport Corporation in state capital Shimla said it would take 10 to 15 days to restart bus services between Manali via Keylong and Leh.
Meanwhile, the 13,050 feet high Rohtang Pass, the main tourist attraction and located 52 km from here, was opened for the tourists on May 21 after completion of snow-clearance work.
However, the National Green Tribunal has allowed only 800 petrol and 400 diesel vehicles to enter Rohtang every day for tourism purposes. That too after procuring online a permit by paying a fee of Rs.500 per vehicle and Rs.50 as congestion charges.
On Tuesday, when the BRO repairs the Rohtang road, vehicles are not allowed to go beyond Gulaba barrier from Manali.
The idyllic and pastoral settings of the Himalayas have been drawing an increasing number of backpackers, especially foreigners, for adventure related activities like mountain biking, rock-climbing and cross-jungle trekking.