Manali, May 13 (IANS) Closed for over five months due to heavy snowfall, the Manali-Leh highway was reopened to motorists on Sunday on completion of the snow-clearing operations, an official said.
“Traffic between Manali and Leh has resumed after snow-clearing operation was over,” the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) official told IANS here.
He said the snow was more than 20 feet high in some stretches close to the Baralacha Pass, posing a big challenge to those clearing the snow.
The work to repair the entire 475-km stretch — which links the Himachal Pradesh tourist city with Leh in Jammu and Kashmir — was also completed.
The 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 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 here 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.
The Rohtang Pass — the main tourist attraction located 52 km from here — has already been opened for tourists after snow clearance.
Only 1,200 taxi or private vehicle permits — 800 petrol vehicles and the remaining diesel — are issued online daily on a first-come-first-served basis to visit the Rohtang Pass.
A mobile app for the issuance of permits to motorists to cross the Rohtang Pass was launched last month by Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur.
Earlier, a permit was available online on payment of Rs 550 through the district administration’s website.
On every Tuesday, when the BRO repairs the Rohtang road, vehicles are not allowed to go beyond the Gulaba barrier from the Manali side.
The idyllic settings of the Himalayas draw an increasing number of backpackers, especially foreigners, for adventure activities like mountain biking, rock climbing and jungle trekking.