As its winter commitments spike amidst unprecedented troop deployment in high altitude areas, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is looking at the procurement of tracked ice-cutters for enhancing the efficacy of snow clearance operations to ensure vital lines of communication remain free of hazards.
The BRO, at present, is using snow blowers along with bulldozers, that are used for road construction activities.
While snow blowers are used for clearing soft snow, bulldozers, both tracked and wheeled, are used for removing soft as well as solidified snow, but these have limitations in clearing ice as a gap remains between the blade and the road surface or the road gets damaged, BRO sources said.
Wide dozer blades, according to a BRO officer, are meant to dig up or scrape the rough ground and moving loose earth and are not designed for use on paved surfaces like roads.
“We have projected the requirement for dedicated equipment, that can break up ice with ice cutters advanced vehicles and solidified snow and then blow it aside without damaging the road surface”, he added.
Dozers are okay for clearing landslides, but snow clearance along lengthy road stretches require a different approach.
With heavy deployment and increased movement of vehicles, BRO’s commitments in winters will also go up substantially ,when areas in Ladakh and the north-east experience frequent and heavy snow. Environmental conditions, as well as constant traffic over the same place, results in snow turning into ice, movement over which become dangerous.
“Due to the ongoing stand-off with China, many smaller roads and tracks in the vicinity of the Line of Actual Control that otherwise remained closed in winters will also have to be kept serviceable,” said a senior BRO officer. This would require constant repositioning of resources along with functional support from locally deployed troops.
Operational plans have been drawn up to meet the requirements and also to cater for any exigencies.
BRO is responsible for the construction and maintenance of road communication lines in border areas of the country.
In spring this year, BRO had opened up the road link to Ladakh along the Manali-Leh, Srinagar-Leh and Darcha-Padam axis, which remains closed for several months in winters due to snow, several weeks ahead of schedule.
Works in border areas were stepped up after the stand-off with the Chinese unfolded.
A large number of bridges along vital routes were also inaugurated recently and more roads and bridges are expected to be complete shortly.
The BRO’s budget, which was Rs 5,400 crore in 2017-18, had spiked to Rs 11,000 crore in 2020-21, which also includes a hike in the allocation for procurement of equipment from domestic and foreign sources.