New Delhi: In a move that seeks to bolster the security infrastructure of our nation, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has inaugurated 24 bridges and three roads built by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) virtually on Tuesday. Of the 24 bridges, nine are in Jammu & Kashmir, five each in Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh, three in Uttarakhand and one each in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. Of the three roads, two are in Ladakh and one is in West Bengal.
The main highlight was the inauguration of India's first indigenous Class 70 140-feet Double-Lane Modular Bridge, built at the height of 11,000 feet at Flag Hill Dokala, Sikkim and Chisumle-Demchok road at Umling La Pass at over 19,000 feet in Ladakh.
Commenting on the significance of the road built at Umling-La pass, the Defence Minister said, "It will enable faster movement of Armed Forces, boost tourism and ensure socio-economic development of the region."
The Defence Minister described the indigenous Double-Lane Modular Bridge as a shining example of 'Aatmanirbharta' and appreciated the fact that it has been developed at a much lower cost and can be dismantled if need be. "It is an important milestone on the path to achieving 'Make in India' as envisioned by our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. It is a symbol of the Government's resolve to provide faster connectivity to border areas. It will also pave the way for the construction of more bridges in such areas," he added.
It is noteworthy to point out that the newly constructed 52 km tarmac road at Umling La pass at 19,300 ft has officially become the highest motorable road in the world and has been constructed as part of Project Himank.
An initiative of the BRO, Project Himank is entrusted with the vital task of construction of infrastructure in the Ladakh region and is also referred to as 'The Mountain Tamers'.
Since its inception in 1985, 'The Project Himank' has been at the forefront in building roads, airfields and bridges both along the Line of Control with Pakistan and the Line of Actual Control with China. At the moment, it is responsible for maintaining a road network of more than 2,900 km in the entire Ladakh region.
Defence Watch reached out to Lt Gen KS Rao, Former Director-General of Border Road Organisation, to understand the strategic implication that the inaugurated Class 70 140-feet Double Lane Modular Bridge will have for national security and the defence forces.
Commenting on the subject, Lt Gen KS Rao, said "In the military bridges are classified by the load they can take. The traditionally used Class 40 bridge can take upload up to 40 tonnes, which is what the majority of our tank weighs. However, if we have to transport these tanks on a tank transporter or towing vehicles, the combined weight of the two will be in excess of what a Class 40 bridge can support as they together become Class 70. In this scenario, the tanks will have to be loaded down from the transporters and reloaded after crossing the bridge, which is time-consuming and a logistical nightmare besides the fact that tank tracks also damage the road".
As far as the modular bridge is gone, the former BRO DG, added "Modular bridges allow us to increase the length of the bridge in no time as sections can be added to it. It is a welcome move as earlier we were using the Baily bridges, which are of WW II wintage."
The Defence Minister defined the construction of roads, highways, tunnels & bridges in border areas as pivotal to building a strong and prosperous Nation and lauded the contribution of the BRO towards nation building by continuously improving the socio-economic condition of the people of far-flung areas and helping the country achieve its security, communication and trade objectives.
He said, "We faced our adversary in the northern sector recently with grit and determination. It could not have been possible without proper infrastructural development. The BRO has been fulfilling its duties with utmost dedication as strong infrastructure in border areas is essential in today's uncertain times as it strengthens strategic capabilities".
He reiterated the Modi-led BJP government's resolve of holistic development of the nation and stated, "Keeping in view the security needs of the country, the government has accorded top priority to infrastructure development in border areas, just as the focus has been on strengthening the interior parts."
Earlier in May 2020, the Modi government had implemented the Shekatkar Committee recommendations regarding border infrastructure, which included "introduction of modern construction plants, equipment and machinery have been implemented by delegating enhanced procurement powers from Rs 7.5 crore to Rs 100 crore to BRO, for domestic and foreign procurement.
He made special mention of the recent milestones of the BRO, including Atal Tunnel, Kailash Mansarovar Road, recent inauguration of 54 bridges and setting up of Centres of Excellence on 'Road Safety' & 'Roads, Bridges, Tunnels, Air-fields'.
With the inauguration of these projects, the BRO has completed a record 102 infrastructure projects in a singly working season.