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In a first, Shinku La Pass connecting Lahaul with Zanskar Valley open for vehicles in December

KEYLONG/SHIMLA: The 5,091-metre-high Shinku La Pass, which connects Lahaul and Spiti in Himachal Pradesh with Zanskar Valley in Kargil, remained opened for vehicles around this time of the year for the first time, officials said.

The road used to be closed during winters as it was unmetalled and risky for driving, especially in snow-bound patches.

The 17-km road between Ramjak in Lahaul and Kargyak in Zanskar Valley was built by Chultim Chonjo, a retired government employee, using his savings. With a little support from local residents, the road was constructed between May 2014 and June 2017.

Chultim Chonjo was conferred Padma Shri, the fourth-highest civilian award, for social service in 2021.

The road was later taken over by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and today it is a metalled road with a capacity to carry truck load of up to 18 tons.

Himachal Road Transport Corporation has started Padam Mini Bus service on the route for the benefit of people in the Zanskar area.

“All this has happened due to cooperation of BRO and we want that the road remains open around the year,” 80-year-old Chultim Chonjo said.

Hailing from a far-off village in Stongde in Zaskar Valley, Chonjo had for a majority of his life crossed the pass on foot. Having failed in his attempt to persuade the authorities to build the road, he took it upon himself in 2014.

BRO Chief Engineer Jitendra Prasad said efforts would be to keep the road open for vehicular traffic round the year. “Challenges are there but the morale of our jawans is very high,” he added.

The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) will start the construction of a tunnel connecting Himachal Pradesh with Zanskar Valley in Ladakh by July this year under its ‘Project Yojak’ and this tunnel would be completed by 2025.

It will change the economy of Zanskar Valley as, at present, one has to travel 101 km from Manali to Darcha on Leh Road and thereafter, take a turn towards Shinku La Pass to enter Zanskar Valley.




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