Two crucial bridges on the strategic 475-km Manali-Leh highway were among the 44 bridges inaugurated by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday to facilitate movement of armed forces and logistics in forward areas of Union Territory of Ladakh, officials said.
The new bridges in Himachal Pradesh are the 360-metre-long Darcha-Barsi steel truss bridge in Darcha in Lahaul-Spiti district and the 110-metre-long Palchan bridge near Manali in Kullu district.
The Darcha bridge across the Bhaga river is the second longest in the country, constructed at a cost of Rs 27.25 crore, officials said.
Besides improving the flow of traffic, the new bridge, would prove helpful increasing load carrying ability, an official statement said.
Darcha is located some 33 km ahead of Keylong, the district headquarters, at a height of 11,020 ft, the last permanent settlement in the state.
From Darcha, one road bifurcates towards Shinku La (pass), the shortest route that traverses to the remote Zanskar region towards Padum, some 30 km from Leh, and another towards the windy Manali-Leh highway.
The 297-km-long Darcha-Nimmu-Padum road has been identified as the third strategic alternative to Ladakh in wake of the threat from Pakistan and China. The double-laned road is under construction and likely to be completed by 2023, officials said.
The BRO is also studying the feasibility of constructing a tunnel beneath the 13.5-km-long snow avalanche-prone Shinku La like the Atal Tunnel near Manali to avoid the majestic pass.
“The tunnel beneath Shinku La will further drastically reduce the distance between Manali and Leh,” an official said.
The Palchan bridge, constructed on the Beas river, has cost Rs 12.83 crore.
The 44 major bridges dedicated to the nation virtually constructed by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) in a record time in seven border states and Union Territories in western, northern and north-eastern India.
Singh also laid the foundation of important Nechiphu tunnel in Arunachal Pradesh.
The project has been accomplished by 70 Road Construction Company of the BRO.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur joined the event virtually to inaugurate them from his official residence.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Monday that despite challenging times due to Covid-19 and border tensions and disputes caused by Pakistan and China, India was not only resolutely facing them but also bringing about historical changes in all sectors of development under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s able leadership.
Reiterating the Centres’ commitment to boost developmental activities in India’s border areas, the Minister said that progress in all such projects is regularly monitored and adequate funds provided for timely execution.
The Minister on Monday dedicated to the nation via videoconference 44 major permanent bridges built in seven border states and Union Territories in western, northern and north-eastern India and also laid the foundation of important Nechiphu tunnel in Arunachal Pradesh.
Singh also congratulated the Director General and other ranks of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) for its achievements and said that the dedication of 44 bridges in one go was itself a record.
Lauding the BRO for its role in improving the border infrastructure, the Minister said that these bridges would further improve the connectivity in far-flung areas in the respective sectors and fulfil the aspirations of the area people.
“They will also meet the transport and logistics requirements of the armed forces throughout the year,” he added.
The Minister pointed out that roads and bridges were the “lifeline of any nation” and played a vital role in the socio-economic development of far-flung regions.
Singh said that the annual budget of the BRO — that varied from Rs 3,300 crore to Rs 4,600 crore in 2008-2016 — had seen a substantial rise and was now pegged at over Rs 11,000 crore in 2020-21.
“There was no reduction in this budget despite Covid-19.”
The Minister also announced that the government had sanctioned high-altitude clothing to BRO engineers and workers.
The 450-metres-long strategically important bi-laned Nechiphu Tunnel on the road to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh would ensure all-weather connectivity across Nechiphu Pass besides providing a safe and secure passage through accident-prone areas.
BRO Director General Lt Gen Harpal Singh said that the 44 bridges of various spans, ranging from 30 metres to 484 metres, are located in Jammu and Kashmir (10), Ladakh (8), Himachal Pradesh (2), Punjab (4), Uttarakhand (8), Arunachal Pradesh (8), and Sikkim (4).
“These bridges are of strategic importance and have been designed to facilitate movement of heavy civil and military traffic in border areas.
“In line with the vision of the Prime Minister, these bridges will contribute towards the overall economic growth of remote border areas and also assist in speedy deployment of the Armed Forces in strategically important sectors,” the BRO chief said.
He said that the BRO had worked relentlessly even during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic restrictions with its work on projects of strategic importance, like the construction of major bridges and roads, Atal Tunnel at Rohtang, Sela Tunnel, and snow clearance at strategic mountain passes.
“In spite of unprecedented snowfall breaking a 60-year record, all strategic mountain passes and roads were cleared for traffic about one month before their average yearly opening dates. This brought relief to people of border areas and ensured rapid and early movement of troops and logistics,” Lt Gen Singh said.
The significant dedication ceremony was conducted through a videoconference in the presence of Union Minister Jitendra Singh, Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, Chief of Army Staff Gen MM Naravane, and Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar in New Delhi.
Union Minister Kiren Rijiju, Chief Ministers of Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Sikkim, and Uttarakhand, Lt Governor of J&K, with members of Parliament, civil and military dignitaries along with members of the public at various sites in different states and union territories also attended the function through a video link.