Officials informed that BRO has opened the Zoji la pass that links Kashmir Valley to Ladakh. The pass is closed by authorities by mid-November every year as winters arrive and temperatures dip to subzero degrees. It is opened by end of April every year.
Zojila is a strategic pass located at 11,650 feet. Indian armed forces make use of this pass to prepare for operations. Generally, it opens after being closed for around 150 days in winter season. However, it was opened after 110 days this year.
Sources said that as the government wanted to develop infrastructure in border areas, there was a pressing need to open Zoji la pass. This region has witnessed several spells of snow in March and April. As winters were over, the high Himalayan passes have been reopened. Government authorities will use this pass to transport tonnes of supplies like rations, fuel and equipment needed by the armed forces.
Authorities had opened Srinagar-Kargil-Leh route across the 11,500-foot-high Zoji La in mid-February but it could not be used because of fresh snow and avalanches. The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) ensured connectivity once again as ten trucks carrying essential fresh supplies travelled through Zoji La towards Kargil.
Earlier, the government had planned to open the pass for Army and civil traffic by February-end or early March. But this could not be achieved because of consistent bad weather conditions, poor visibility and heavy snowfall which ended up triggering avalanches. It was opened in March-end but snowing forced authorities to close it. Many vehicles travelled through this stretch for around 25 days but route was blocked as snowfall took over.
As there is an ongoing conflict between India and China, road routes to Ladakh are very important from a strategic perspective. The two roads would normally open by April-end or early May considering snow situation. Snow-cutters are also often used to open this route. These two road routes — via Manali and Srinagar — are opened till October.
If these passes are closed, then the government has to fly out supplies from logistics hub in Chandigarh to troops in Ladakh. However, these flights are bound by time restrictions. Authorities have to ensure that planes fly out of Leh before noon because a rise in temperature otherwise negatively affects engine performance.