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Manali-Leh highway status in 2017

Posted: November 19, 2016 by admin

Srinagar - Leh Road: CLOSED
(Expected opening date: 05-15 May)

Manali - Leh Road: CLOSED
(Expected opening date: 25-31 May)

Manali-Leh highway closes for vehicular traffic

November 15, 2016: Passing through some of the highest mountain passes of the word, Manali-Leh highway, which is experiencing extreme cold conditions and some of its stretches are covered with layer of frost, is officially closed till next year. Kullu and Lahaul-Spiti administration has requested people to avoid traveling on this route.

Water sources along the highway have frozen completely. A layer of frost is covering the road at Rohtang, Baralacha, Sarchu, Keling Sarai, Taglang-la, Pang and other high altitude areas. Frost remains round the clock in shady areas, increasing possibility of skidding of the vehicles.

Apart from icing, the temperature is such that mountains can experience snowfall any time. Taking precautionary measures, the highway is officially declared closed every year on November 15. Though vehicular movement continues at own risk between Manali and Lahaul as this highway is the only lifeline to the residents but people travelling would be responsible for any accident. However, traffic movement between Keylong (Lahaul) and Leh is almost nil.

Main risk after October 15 remains of sudden snowfall which may trap vehicles at secluded areas away from any help. Police posts from Sarchu too have been removed until next season. In past too many such incidences have put people in trouble because weather between Rohtang and Taglang-la is unpredictable which changes within few minutes. No telephone network works in this area.

Meanwhile, vehicular traffic is still continuing on Srinagar-Leh highway. However, its too cold at Zojila and other passes where water has started to freeze but people are still taking risk to drive. The highway will close with the first spell of snowfall.

The best and safe way to visit Ladakh during winter months is to travel by flight from Delhi. Those who want to experience the winter life in Ladakh can book an air ticket to Leh airport which is quite safe.

UPDATE ON February 23, 2017

Snow clearance on Manali-Leh highway to start from March 1

February 23, 2017: Border Roads Organization (BRO) has planned to start snow clearing operation on the highway from Manali from March 1. Opening of the highway for vehicular traffic is expected to be delayed this season as the region has received heaviest snowfall in last five years. However, the organization is engaged in advance preparation to meet the target.

According to BRO officials, the highway has received more snow in last five years. Many stretches, especially near Rohtang and Baralacha pass, have over 20ft of snow. Many avalanches on the highway may have damaged its many stretches. The organization has airlifted its personnel including technicians from Manali and dropped in Lahaul valley in five sorties. These days organization is stressing upon clearing snow from about 80km stretch of the highway in Lahaul valley.

“Depending on weather conditions, we shall officially start snow clearance operation from Manali-Leh highway till Sarchu from March 1,” BRO commander Colonel Arvind Awasthi said. He added that the snowfall is still continuing along the highway and many stretches have completely disappeared below thick blanket of snow. “We are in regular contact with Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) to get fresh weather updates. We don’t want to spend in road clearance unnecessarily if it’s snowing continuously and if our cleared roads are blocked again with more snow.”

BRO kept many stretches of the highway in populated areas open despite heavy snowfall. Awasthi said that snow from Manali-Kothi, Sissu-Tandi, Tandi-Darcha, Thirot-Killar-Sansari, Thirot-Lot stretches has been removed and now work is on to connect Udaipur with Keylong.

Of the 474km stretch of Manali-Leh highway, 222km stretch till Sarchu receives more snow and is challenging to resume for traffic. “Our task is to clear snow till Sarchu. We carried out five sorties by chopper and dropped our personnel at Stingri and Udaipur helipads to speed up snow clearance works in Lahaul valley. We airlifted and brought back civilians of Lahaul in emergency to Manali in our return flights.”

Manali-Leh highway opens for traffic in May end or first week of June every year. It will be very difficult to clear snow from Rahni Nullah, Beas Nullah, Chumbak Mor, Rakshi Dhank and Baralacha areas. BRO personnel will have to work hard to open the highway till May end this season. Many BRO personnel have lost their lives while opening of the road in past; still the organization is working on Lahaul roads even during snowfall. Apart from doing its own road works, BRO is engaged in opening of other civilian roads and its clinic and doctors in landlocked Lahaul are serving locals of Lahaul by treating them with available resources. The BRO officials were honoured by Lala Meme Foundation on February 15 for their outstanding works.

UPDATE on March 03, 2017

Inclement weather delays snow clearing operation on Manali-Leh highway

March 03, 2017: Snow clearance operation on Manali-Leh highway that usually starts on March 1 every year has been delayed due to inclement weather conditions on the hills as it is still snowing heavily.

Border Roads Organization (BRO) spends crores of rupees on removing snow from this highway to make it motorable. Believing that clearing snow amidst snowfall does not make any sense as this is nothing but wastage of money; BRO is waiting for weather to turn favourable. This operation takes three months for over hundred personnel and a large number of dozers, snow cutters and excavators to clear the highway. Delay in starting the work means delay in its opening which can affect thousands of people living across the highway, tourism in Himachal and Ladakh and also the Indian Army which uses this highway to ferry essentials to the border areas.

BRO commander at 38 Border Road Task Force Colonel Arvind Awasthi who is responsible to undertake this operation said, “The annual task of clearing snow from the highway will start soon. We are in contact with DRDO’s Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment. It will be of no use if we open the highway after lot of efforts and fresh spell of heavy snowfall blocks the highway. We are waiting for favourable weather to start the work.”

Manali-Leh highway is strategically important and is lifeline for hundreds of villages. The highway was officially closed on October 15 and then blocked after snowfall on January 6. Many portions of the highway get covered below 30 to 40ft of snow. Cutting snow and ice to search the disappeared road becomes very risky. BRO jawans cut through many avalanches and landslides also. Extreme cold, blizzards, hypothermia, sliding snow and rolling boulders are the major risks during the operation. Many jawans have lost their lives while clearing snow from the highway.

Clearing snow from mighty Rohtang and Baralacha pass is the main challenge. BRO has planned to start the operation in multi-stages to finish it in time. Col Awasthi said that the work will start on war footings to meet the target. “We know importance of the highway. We have made a strategy. The terrain along highway has received highest snow in last five years. Still we shall complete the task well within time.”

UPDATE on March 19, 2017

Snowfall continues; snow clearance to start soon

March 19, 2017: Snow clearance on Manali-Leh highway has not yet started officially thanks to inclement weather all this month. The good news is that weather has now turned sunny and Border Roads Organization (BRO) is clearing snow from Kaylong-Koksar and Keylong-Baralacha stretches. The organization has informed us that they will officially start clearing snow from Manali side after performing puja for safety of men and machine within a week. The bad new is that local meteorological centre has predicted more snowfall on hills in news few days. Hotels in Keylong and Jispa are accepting advance booking from mid May but hoteliers fear huge losses if road doesn't open by that time. The conclusion: Bad weather conditions, more snow on mountain passes than previous few years and delay in snow clearance operation indicate towards definite delay in opening of the road this season. Meanwhile, snow clearance from Srinagar-Leh highway has started from Gagangir few days back. The Zojila pass between Sonmarg and Drass has also received very heavy snowfall this season.

UPDATE on March 23, 2017

BRO starts "snow clearance operation" on Manali-Leh highway

March 23, 2017: The Border Roads Organization (BRO) on Thursday started its snow clearance operation on strategically important Manali-Leh highway after organizing a puja for the safety of its men and machinery at Gulaba, 23km from Manali.

BRO has set a target of May month to restore traffic on Manali-Rohtang-Keylong highway, while it will take few more days to clear snow till Sarchu, 222km from Manali. Sarchu-Leh stretch is expected to open by early May. Cutting 5 to 10ft of snow at Gulaba is proving a herculean task. The BRO personnel have cleared snow till Rahla Fall, 4km beyond Gulaba. Its machinery is engaged here amidst mild fresh snowfall. Restoring Rohtang and Baralacha pass is the most difficult task. The main challenge is to clear snow till Sarchu and “Project Deepak” of BRO executes this task.

“The snow accumulation is increasing gradually as we are gaining altitude. Many avalanches have come on the highway and snow thickness at some places could be more than 30ft,” second-in-command, BRO, Lieutenant Colonel Mayank Mehta, who is also officiating commander, said. He added that inclement weather has been main challenge before them. “We have cleared some stretches three times as more snowfall blocks the road again and again. We have set a target to clear snow from Rohtang till May and we are working hard to achieve the target.”

Mehta added that snow clearance operation has started simultaneously at four places to speed up the work. “A team from Gulaba and another team from Sissu in Lahaul are moving towards Rohtang pass. Two another teams are clearing snow within Lahaul. The main team from Gulaba comprises of nearly 45 personnel, two snow cutters, three dozers and one excavator. All of the machines are operational and performing well,” he said.

Manali-Leh highway had blocked following heavy snowfall on January 6. BRO’s official starting clearing snow from the road has provided relief to the residents of Lahaul and Ladakh. As the entire length of the highway is covered with thick layer of snow and ice, which is more than previous many years’, the opening of road for vehicular traffic is expected to delay this year. However, BRO officials are determined to open the road on time. Braving bone chilling cold, blizzards and heavy snowfall, BRO is moving ahead smoothly. Many workers of BRO have lost life while clearing the snow. Avalanches are the main threat before BRO.

UPDATE on April 22, 2017

BRO clears road till Rohtang pass

April 22, 2017: This news has come as a surprise. Border Roads Organization (BRO) has cleared snow from Manali-Rohtang highway. Snow from Keylong-Rohtang highway is expected to be cleared by April 24. With clearing of remaining stretch of about 3km to the north of Rohtang, Keylong will connect with Manali via Rohtang pass. However, it will take a few more days to allow vehicular traffic on this road. Initially only local vehicles will be allowed while tourists vehicles are expected to reach Rohtang by mid May.

BRO will now concentrate on clearing snow from Keylong-Sarchu stretch. It may take another one month to connect Sarchu with Manali. Snow clearance work on either side of Zojila pass is continuing on war footing to open Srinagar-Leh highway. It may take at least 15 more days to clear snow from the highway and another few days to declare the highway safe for movement of civilians. Meanwhile, work is underway to clear snow from Kaza-Kunzum pass-Manali highway.

As the temperature soars, with day temperature of Manali being recorded at 26/27 degrees C, the speed of melting of snow has also increased. The rivers and all water streams are in spate. Residents claim that they have never seen such sharp rise in temperature in mid April. The snow cover on hills is disappearing which has helped BRO clear snow fast.

Now, the expected date of opening of Manali-Leh highway is May 25 and Srinagar-Leh highway may open by May 15.

UPDATE on April 25, 2017

BRO clears snow from Rohtang pass, Manali connects with Keylong

April 25, 2017: Cutting through 10 to 30ft thick layer of snow and ice, Border Roads Organization (BRO) has cleared Manali-Rohtang-Keylong highway and vehicular traffic on this road will be allowed within a week, BRO officials disclosed.

“We have cleared snow from the highway. A huge landslide below Marhi has blocked the road. Machines have been engaged to clear the debris. Traffic will also be allowed very soon,” BRO’s 38 Border Road Task Force second-in-command Lieutenant Colonel Mayank Mehta said. He added that work is continuing to clear snow from Keylong-Sarchu road on Manali-Leh axis.

Over a dozen spells of snowfall since January 6 had blocked the highway completely. BRO started clearing snow from this road in March and Manali-Keylong road over Rohtang was expected to connect in mid-May as the region was deep under thick layer of snow. “We worked day and night. Both young and our experienced jawans kept moving forward in all circumstances and cleared snow well before the target. We had to cut over 30ft of snow at many places,” Mehta added.

If weather remains favourable, Manali-Leh highway is expected to open for traffic by May 25. A group of jawans and machines is moving towards 16,050ft high Baralacha pass. The fresh snowfall is posing challenge to BRO. A layer of fresh snow has accumulated on the highway at Rohtang and Baralacha pass. Snowfall continued on Monday but the work did not stop. Organization will now widen the highway and make some parking arrangements at Rohtang before general traffic flow is allowed. Once the debris of landslide is cleared, emergency vehicles will be able to cross Rohtang pass.

---Stay tuned to get fresh updates---

Disclaimer: The date of opening of Manali-Leh and Srinagar-Leh highway is not determined by anybody as it totally depends on weather conditions. Opening of these highway totally depends on intensity of snowfall in winter months, weather during clearing of snow, more snowfall in April and May months, temperature and many other aspects. Discover Leh Ladakh does not guarantee the accuracy of date of opening of the highway. This is just an estimation made as per inputs from BRO and sight visit by our own team members.

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