Under Project Himank, the BRO earlier had made the Col Chewang Rinchen Setu which was inaugurated by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh Oct 21

Braving extreme cold conditions and a treacherous terrain, men and machines of the Border Roads Organisation's (BRO) "Project Himank" are working hard to construct an "all-weather road" to connect Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO), a forward post along the India-China border, for a smooth passage of the armed forces personnel and other logistical support.

Backed by a team of doctors and paramedics, a huge number of workers and engineers are working against time to complete the construction of the road in the Leh-Karakoram Pass section. The work to realign and rebuild the road began in 2000.

"With a view to construct an all-weather road up to DBO to facilitate a smooth passage of the armed forces personnel and other logistical support, Project Himank of the Border Roads Organisation has constituted a special task force (the 50 Border Roads Task Force) to accelerate the work in a time-bound manner," a BRO official said.

For the troops and men working on the road alignment, survival at DBO is a major challenge.

Situated at a height of 16,696 feet and at a distance of over 300 km from Leh, the journey to this strategically-located post is a nightmare for an ordinary person, the BRO official said.

However, the armed forces of the country have been overcoming all topographic hazards to maintain a round-the-clock vigil along the sensitive border, he added.

The nature of work on the road to DBO in the Karakoram range includes road formations, re-alignment, widening, retention, metalling and laying of bituminous topping, officials said.

A massive manpower, including engineers, supervisors and labourers, is required to be deployed simultaneously in various sectors for this purpose, they added.

However, besides being treacherous, the road stretch poses a number of health hazards for the workers owing to the extremely high altitude, which goes even up to 18,000 feet, officials said.

For the Project Himank authorities, taking care of the health and well-being of the labour force and service personnel, who are exposed to low-oxygen levels, high-velocity dry winds and freezing temperatures while carrying out their job, assumes utmost priority, they said, adding that medical facilities consisting of doctors, paramedics, medicines and oxygen cylinders have been put in place at every detachment.

"The common health issues encountered by the workers are associated with acute mountain sickness, wherein a patient suffers from symptoms such as loss of appetite, nausea, breathlessness, stomach pain and fever," Dr Uday Bhaskar of Sector 78 RCC said.

"The dry winds sap up body moisture, thereby further complicating their health," he added.

To mitigate these health issues, the doctors conduct regular classes for the BRO personnel at their respective detachments, wherein they are advised about the precautionary measures to be taken.

"We advise them to consume at least four litres of water daily to remain hydrated. The workers are also asked to put on adequate clothing to protect themselves against the chilly winds. In extreme cases of pulmonary oedema, the patients are evacuated for specialised treatment even if we are in a position to treat them at their detachments.

"The measures adopted by the Project Himank authorities have resulted in substantially ameliorating the serious health issues faced by the workers, which would consume numerous lives earlier. The regular and timely interventions by the medical staff help us achieve our ultimate purpose of a much-improved output from the workers, thereby resulting in timely completion of the project," Dr Bhaskar said.

The Col Chewang Rinchen Setu, inaugurated in October by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, is the county's highest-altitude all-weather permanent bridge, located in eastern Ladakh at a distance of nearly 45 km from the India-China border.

The 1,400-foot-long bridge on the Shyok river, situated in Sub-Sector North at a height of 14,650 feet and christened after the "Lion of Ladakh", Col Chewang Rinchen, was dedicated to the nation in his memory at a ceremony held next to it, which was also attended by Army chief Gen. Bipin Rawat and the daughter and granddaughter of the highly-decorated late army officer, who was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra (MVC) twice.

BRO Director General (DG) Lt Gen. Harpal Singh has also visited the strategic DBO sector in eastern Ladakh, near the Karakoram pass between India and China, and reviewed the progress of the road projects undertaken by the organisation some time ago.

Project Himank Chief Engineer Brig. Nitin K Sharma said the BRO personnel working at a height of 18,000 feet on the 260-km-long DBO axis are facing huge challenges as regards the terrain and cold climatic conditions.

He said the Col Chewang Rinchen bridge was constructed in a record 15 working months after its foundation was laid in 2017, adding that it was built using the innovative micropile technology for the first time in Asia.

China had constructed a road up to Finger Four, which falls under the Siri Jap area and is five km deep into the Line of Actual Control (LAC).