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New Delhi, May 8, 2020
Ushering in a new era in undertaking Kailash-Manasarovar Yatra and border area connectivity, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh today inaugurated the road link from Dharchula in Uttarakhand to Lipulekh on the China border.
The Minister also flagged off a convoy of vehicles from Pithoragarh to Gunji through video conferencing, an official press release said.
Speaking on the occasion, he said the Central Government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a special vision for the development of remote areas. With the completion of this crucial road link, the decades-old dreams and aspirations of local people and pilgrims have been fulfilled.
He expressed confidence that local trade and economic growth in the region would receive a boost with the operationalisation of this roadway.
The pilgrimage to Kailash-Manasarovar has been sacred and revered by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains. With the completion of this road link, the yatra could be completed in one week compared to 2-3 weeks it took earlier.
The road originates from Ghatiabagarh and terminates at Lipulekh Pass, the gateway to Kailash-Mansarovar. In this road, the altitude rises from 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 of Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra.
At present, the travel to Kailash-Mansarovar takes around two to three weeks through Sikkim or Nepal routes. The Lipulekh route had a trek of 90 km through high altitude terrain and the elderly yartris faced a lot of difficulties.
The other two roadways via Sikkim and Nepal are long. They entailed approximately 20% land journey on Indian roads and 80% land journey in China. With the opening of Ghatiabgarh-Lipulekh road, this ratio has been reversed.
Now pilgrims to Manasarovar will traverse 84% of the land journey on Indian roads and only 16% in China. This is truly historic, he added.
While congratulating the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) engineers and personnel whose dedication made this achievement possible, he mourned the loss of lives during the construction of this road. He praised the contribution of BRO personnel who live in far-off places and away from their families, that too in difficult times of COVID-19.
Rajnath Singh said BRO has been actively involved in the development of Garhwal as well as Kumaon region of Uttrakhand since the beginning.
Director-General of BRO Lt Gen Harpal Singh said 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.
Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra took place in the working season from June to October and it coincided with the move of locals and their logistics as well as movement of traders (for trade with China) thus further reducing the daily hours for construction.
In addition, there were numerous flash floods and cloud bursts over last few years which led to extensive damages. In the initial 20 kilometres, the mountains have hard rock and are near vertical due to which BRO has lost many lives and 25 equipment were also badly damaged due to falling into Kali River.
Despite all odds, in the last two years, BRO could increase its output by 20 times by creating multiple working points and inducting modern technology equipment. Helicopters were also extensively used to induct hundreds of tonnes of stores/equipment into this sector.
The event was attended by Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Army Staff General M M Naravane, Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar, Lok Sabha Member of Parliament from Almora (Uttarakhand) Ajay Tamta and senior officials of Ministry of Defence and BRO.