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February 20, 2010

Work underway to widen Manali-Leh highway

     Manali: Work to widen one of the world's highest motorways is underway in Himachal Pradesh. The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has started expanding the Manali-Leh highway to strengthen connectivity along a route seen as a strategic point for Indian Army and used by tourists as well. Set against the backdrop of the majestic Himalayas , the road links Manali in Himachal Pradesh to Leh in Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir. The road was critical during the 1999 Kargil war, as food, arms and ammunition for Indian troops were transported through it. Reaching peaks of 5,328 metres, treacherous snowfall keeps the 480-kilometre highway closed for nearly eight months of the year. Surender Kumar Doon, Commander 38 of the Border Roads Task Force, says construction has been planned in accordance to the bitterly cold weather conditions. "After October, we can't do any work here, especially blacktopping. Without blacktopping, the layers at the bottom get very dusty so we haven't laid these layers yet. All the documentation is ready. So as soon as the winter passes, we will begin this work. By September this year, the road will be blacktopped," said Doon . Working alongside local labourers, the BRO taskforce braves freezing conditions where the mercury often drops drop below -30 degrees Celsius. The construction work, however, is a much-needed source of income for the people of Himachal Pradesh's Lahaul-Spiti district. "I like working here and I am helping the army. We are able to pass the time by working with people we know and we also make money." said Dolma, a female labourer from Lahaul Spiti.
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