For people like me who had been to Ladakh numerous times and believe that they have seen it all, there is now a new reason for taking another trip to Ladakh. A road that had been under construction for quite a while and is probably one of the most anticipated in the region has been finally half completed and declared open for civilian traffic until Shinku La pass. The road, when completed, will run from Darcha to Padum and will connect the two valleys of Lahaul and Zanskar.
As I mentioned above, this road had remained under construction for several years. The only way to reach Padum from Lahaul valley as of now is to either travel via Leh which would put the total distance close to 800 kms of road or to trek and walk over the mountains. There is a high altitude pass on the way known as Shinku La, also as Shingu La or Shingo La at the height of 5,050 meters which remains covered with snow for most of the year. With the construction of this road, the distance and travel time between the two valley will cut down by a huge margin. The road from Darcha to Shinku La pass has been completed while the work continues on the road towards Padum from Shinku La.
Apart from the travel enthusiasts, this road is highly critical for both the locals and military. After the recent Chinese incursions, it had become of utmost importance for Indian army to connect these areas better so that the movement of troops and supplies can be regular. It would also be a blessing for locals as the movement between the two towns will become significantly easier.
As per BRO commander KP Rajendra, ““We are finally able to connect the 39.6km-long road between Darcha and 5,050 meter high Shinku la Pass, which will connect people of Lahaul Valley with Zanskar Valley. Presently there is a single way to reach Kargil via 474 km long Manali-Leh highway. But with the connection of Darcha Road with Shinku la Pass, the road will become an option to reach Kargil sector directly as a shortest route for army vehicles, which at present were forced to ply via Manali-Leh highway,”
“The work of road construction is on progress from both side via Shinku La Pass from Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir side, which will be completed within next few years and opening of that road will diminish considerable distance to reach Kargil sector in Jammu and Kashmir,” he added.
The road from Darcha to Shinku La will remain open from June to October and closed for rest of the year for civilian traffic due to high amount of snow at Shinku La top.
There is also talks of creating a tunnel under Shinku La pass which would open the road for traffic movement in winter as well. After the much anticipated Rohtang tunnel is complete, all these valleys that remain closed in winter as of now will be accessible through out the year.