Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday inaugurated a road link between Dharchula (Uttarakhand) and Lipulekh (India-China border) which will drastically cut the travel time of the Kailash Mansarovar pilgrims. The new road has shortened the journey by 10 kilometres and has curtailed the duration by several days.
The pilgrims used to take an arduous two-three weeks journey to the shrine. With the new road link, they will be able to complete it in a week. It will also spare them some difficult terrain.
"Earlier, while undertaking the journey, 80 per cent of the route fell in China's jurisdiction. But now it has been reversed. As of now, pilgrims will undertake 84 per cent of the land journey on Indian roads and only 16 per cent in China," a senior bureaucrat in the Ministry of Defence told NDTV.
He said the work along this route has been expedited in the last two years. "Earlier, we could manage only 2 km stretch in a year, but in the last year, we managed to complete almost 20 km in a year," he said.
Border Road Organisation (BRO) chief Lt Gen Harpal Singh pointed out that the construction of this road was hampered due to multiple problems.
"Constant snowfall, steep rise in altitude and extremely low temperatures restricted the working season to five months," he told Mr Singh.
Also, he said, the construction season coincided with the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. Movement of local traders to China also interfered with the work as it reduced working hours.
"The terrain is very critical. There are numerous flash floods and cloud bursts in the last few years, which led to extensive damages," a senior Defence Ministry official said.
In the initial 20 kilometres, he said, mountains have hard rocks and are near vertical due to which BRO has lost many lives. 25 equipment were also badly damaged as they fell into River Kali, he adds.
Despite all odds, in the last two years, the BRO could increase its output by 20 times by creating multiple working points and inducting modern technology equipment, sources say. Helicopters were also extensively used to induct hundreds of tons of stores into this sector.
The road starts at Ghatiabagarh and terminates at Lipulekh Pass, the gateway to Kailash Mansarovar.
On this 80-km road, the altitude rises 6,000 to 17,060 feet. With the completion of this project, the arduous trek through treacherous high-altitude terrain can now be avoided by the pilgrims.
"With the completion of this crucial road link, the decades old dreams and aspirations of the local people and pilgrims have been fulfilled," the Defence Minister said.