India is working on two major projects in Ladakh, near the Line of Actual Control: the 145-kilometre Chushul-Dungti-Fukche-Demchok road and the highest airfield at Nyoma which is believed to be an answer to China’s rapid infrastructure development on its side of the border.
Speaking exclusively to News18 while on a visit to Kashmir, the director general of Border Roads Organisation, Rajeev Chaudhry, said that the Nyoma airfield will be the highest in the world and will be operational soon. News18 had earlier this year reported that India had invited bids for Nyoma airfield in Ladakh, which will be capable of handling fighter aircraft and was an answer to China’s infrastructure work.
Big lift for troops
The upgraded advanced landing ground will soon be ready for fighter aircraft operations and, according to the bid document reviewed by News18, the project costs around Rs 214 crore. Nyoma airfield is spread over 1,235 acres, with a 2.7-km runway, and allied military infrastructure coming up. The Border Roads Organisation has invited bids, seeking contractors to execute the job. Located 180 kilometres away from the city of Leh, the airfield is close to the LAC, which will result in quick movement of troops in case of any requirement.
The BRO head told News18 that the road along the LAC is also of prime importance. “The most important project is the Chushul-Dungti-Fukche-Demchok road, which is a 145 km-long road along the LAC, 15 kilometres hugging the LAC. Strategically, this is a very important road,” Chaudhry said.
News18 had also exclusively reported that the single-lane highway would come up alongside the LAC from Chushul to Demchok in the next two years, which will act as a major strategic road for the country as a counter to China.
Further, the BRO head said other projects are being planned in Ladakh and can’t be disclosed till they are sanctioned.
Also known as the CDFD road, the 15 km-long stretch is being made at the cost of Rs 400 crore. While China was rapidly building its infrastructure, questions were being raised as to why India had not laid a metalled road.
The two projects are a big boost for the Indian forces operating in Ladakh after the Galwan clashes. They are also seen as strategically important as India has already said that the relations with China aren’t normal. India and China have witnessed tensions mainly along the LAC in Ladakh since 2020 after clashes between the PLA and Indian forces. India then moved several troops to the Ladakh sector to counter any Chinese move.
Amarnath Yatra ‘on track’
Chaudhry also inspected the work on the Amarnath Yatra track. For the first time, the yatra track to the cave shrine, which was maintained by a government department, has been handed over to the BRO. The organisation has set a June 15 deadline to complete the restoration work, well before the yatra starts on July 1.
The basic scope of the work involves snow clearance, widening of the track, restoration of all footbridges, fixing of handrails, protection works at slide-prone stretches, and construction of breast walls and retaining walls for guarding the track.
The DG BRO told News18, “This project is very important as a lot of believers come for the Amaranth Yatra. They should be given a very good yatra. Both tracks, Baltal and Pahalgam, have been given to BRO so that they can be maintained to the expectations of pilgrims.”
Chaudhry said that work is being done diligently by BRO and will be finished before the 15th of this month. “I just visited the track from Baltal side, bridges are being strengthened, handrails put in, and tracks are being widened. In fact, vehicles can ply, and machines have also gone ahead. We are making rain sheds so that people can be safe when it rains,” he told News18 in an exclusive chat.
Last year, 15 pilgrims were killed and tracks were washed away when a cloudburst triggered a flash flood near the Amarnath cave shrine, located deep in the Himalayan mountain range of Kashmir.
BRO is expected to carry out major repairs, and strengthen tracks, to ensure the safety of pilgrims in case of any eventuality. News18 had earlier reported that in view of communication needs during natural disasters or emergencies, the government approved the utilisation of 400 satellite phones during the yatra.