Sunday, June 23, 2024

Taking The High Road

By Kamal Shah & Chaitali Bag

Take Me Home Country Roads could well be the lyrics of this unique Border Road Organisation and its exceptional accomplishments. India’s Border Roads have created a network in the toughest of terrains, shown hardiness in the face of the elements, taken engineering to another level and performed at a level that has been acknowledged globally. In conversation with the Director General Lieutenant General Raghu Srinivasan, we obtain a fascinating insight into the achievements of this incredible entity and the challenges it faced in its tangible contribution to the nation’s integrity, security and military flexibility.

Q1.   How does the BRO deal with the unique difficulties of building roads in mountainous terrain and otherwise inaccessible regions?

Over the last six decades, BRO is engaged in development of road infrastructure along the Northern and Western Border areas of the country with challenging terrain and weather conditions. Our men work under extreme temperatures ranging from minus 30 degrees in Ladakh to over 45 degrees in Rajasthan. Often these areas also have security concerns. Every region where BRO operates offers a peculiar challenge with a short working window to execute all works. Our personnel with their experience have devised ways and means to combat these challenges.

In high altitude areas above 14000-18000 ft the oxygen in the atmosphere goes down considerably and at places, we encounter up to 50% lesser oxygen than mean sea level. Combined with extremely low temperatures the lack of oxygen takes a toll on the human body and our men suffer from frequent bouts of nose bleeds, high Blood Pressure and high altitude sickness, which at times becomes fatal. Even the machines are not left untouched, as low oxygen in the atmosphere forces machines to operate with reduced efficiency.


However, to counter the vagaries of the terrain and weather, we are fortunate to have motivated leaders and committed men who are on a mission to improve the road infrastructure in the border areas and contribute their bit in the Nation- Building. Our Core Values, work ethics and the drive and commitment of our personnel have been exceptional. With the passage of time we have gained experience and developed unmatched expertise in the construction works in these remote and high-altitude areas. Over the years, with the changing work environment; we have evolved and embraced technology and modernization and innovatively applied them to optimize the working potential of man & machine.

In recent times, the road infrastructure sector has witnessed huge growth in the country, which has resulted in faster & multifold socio-economic development in the region. This has become possible due to the infusion of the latest technologies in the field of construction. These techniques are proving beneficial, productive and time-saving with a consistent focus on sustainable development.

We must remember that what may seem to be very easy to implement in the hinterland, becomes extremely challenging in border areas. But then, overcoming challenges is what we in the BRO are best at.

Q2. In what ways does the BRO oversee its employee’s welfare and safety when they face difficult working conditions?

BRO personnel continuously work in tough high-altitude terrain with adverse weather conditions and harsh environments. Staying and working in such inclement weather and altitude continuously has an adverse effect on the health of our men. However, motivation is the key to overcome such adversities. We are, however, fortunate to have able and committed junior leaders who are always at the forefront and lead by example.

In addition, numerous initiatives have been undertaken to improve the living conditions of our troops. They have been provided with comfortable and hygienic living conditions with prefabricated shelters, Porta Cabins, Bio Toilets, Water Purifiers, Solar Lights, Super High-Altitude Clothing and Recreational facilities. There are standard operating procedures concerning safety and security at the worksite which are followed in letter and spirit. We also look after their medical health by conducting regular medical camps and vaccination drives. This results in high motivation, increased productivity and increased ability to work even in what has erstwhile been considered as the non-working season.

 BRO has received invaluable support in the form of welfare initiatives by the Government. New policies like Assured Decent Last Rites Scheme, Grant of Risk and Hardship Matrix Allowance to GREF Personnel at par with the Army, Extension of Medical Facilities to GREF Personnel and their Dependents at Armed Forces Healthcare Facilities in challenging areas, Assured Decent Last Rites Scheme, Group Insurance Scheme, Transportation of Mortal Remains from workplace to home town, waiver for ex-gratia compensation for Casual Paid Labourers of BRO and 10 Lac insurance cover to the Casual Paid Labourers of BRO go beyond mere policies; but reflect a genuine understanding of the challenges faced by BROs dedicated men and women who work tirelessly in difficult and remote areas to serve our Nation.  

Generally, BRO troops operate in remote areas of the country where mobile coverage is sparse. Consequently, troops are unable to remain in touch with their family. To resolve the problem, adequate satellite phones at all remote locations have been provided.

Recently we made functional, four Telemedicine nodes at Military Inspection Rooms located at remote & difficult locations of our Projects. These Telemedicine nodes are connected through VSAT to Service hospitals. In case of an untoward incident, this facility will provide prompt medical intervention for medical & surgical emergencies to our troops and CPLs through Telemedicine consultation with specialists at Service hospitals using satellite-based VSAT communication.

In an exclusive conversation IA&D Editorial Director Kamal Shah shares frame with the Director General Border Roads Organisation Lt. Gen. Raghu Srinivasan, VSM

Q3. BRO broke the glass ceiling and inducted women into leading roles in the workforce. How has this initiative panned out in the long run?

In the initial years, the BRO was male-dominated, given the challenging nature of the work, which involved constructing roads in remote and harsh terrains under extreme weather conditions. Women officers were restricted to staff roles due to the perceived hazards of fieldwork. However, in recent years the Border Roads Organisation broke gender barriers by appointing women officers to key command positions.

The women of BRO have performed exceedingly well in all domains. Over the years, the BRO has inducted a large number of Women into its Workforce, right from Officers to the level of CPLs and has empowered them with authority and responsibility. BRO firmly believes that Women will always be active participants in the endeavour of Nation Building. In an affirmation of this belief, the organization continues to assign higher leadership roles to Women. EE (civil) Vaishali S Hiwase became the first GREF women officer to command a Road Construction Company on 28 Apr 21. Maj Aaina Rana again created history by becoming the first Indian Army Women officer to command an All-Women Road Construction Company. Both officers were looking after important roads leading to Northern Borders.  Executive Engineer Obing Taki, commanding another RCC, in the North East region, is credited with constituting an all-woman workforce and successfully undertaking the task of de-launching Bailey Bridges, a task, thus far performed only by men. Col Navneet Duggal, from the Corps of Electrical & Mechanical Engineers, was the senior-most Woman Officer in the BRO, promoted to the rank of Colonel; she is heading an Independent Field Workshop located in Srinagar and is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of heavy equipment. These women officer for their outstanding contributions in the construction domain have been honoured by the Institution of Civil Engineering (ICE) and Delhi Commission for Women (DCW).

In 2023 Col Archna Sood became the first women officer to Command a Border Road Task Force (BRTF) in Arunachal Pradesh, and Col Ponung Doming the second officer to command a BRTF. Incidentally, Col Ponung Doming is the first woman officer from Arunachal Pradesh to be approved to the rank of Colonel. She is presently looking after the Task Force that is working on many strategic projects including Mudh- Nyoma Airfield.

Recently, during the 65th BRO Day felicitations AEE Nikita Chaudhary, was awarded with Women Achiever of BRO for her invaluable contribution made during the timely construction of Sela Tunnel under Project Vartak which was inaugurated and dedicated to the Nation by Hon’ble Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on 09 Mar 2024. Smt Yange Sherpa (CPL of Project Swastik) was commended by Shri Giridhar Armane, Def Secy for her selfless service and contribution made towards the HADR Operations carried out during the flash flood calamity in Sikkim on Oct 2023.

In BRO, Women empowerment, in the truest sense, has been achieved by empowering them with adequate responsibilities and resources to execute various organizational tasks.  These women officers and subordinates are trailblazers and will serve as an inspiration for women across the country to consider joining BRO and serve the Nation in the most difficult conditions.

Q 4.  Among BRO’s accomplishments is the Sela Tunnel, an engineering feat that has brought great pride to India. Could you tell us the difficulties encountered and the goals achieved during the process?

The recently completed Sela Tunel Project is indeed a matter of pride for BRO. This 2.598 Km long tunnel constructed in just five years at an altitude of 13000 ft on Tezpur Tawang Road will provide an all-weather connectivity to the strategic Tawang Sector. The tunnel has been recognized as the highest tunnel in the country by the International Book of Honour, England. The BRO team faced numerous challenges during the construction of this tunnel which was overcome by engineering prowess, innovative ideas and unprecedented junior leadership.

As you know, the Himalayas are one of the youngest mountain ranges in the world and owing to the subduction phenomenon; tunnel construction in the Himalayan region is probably the most challenging construction activity in the field of civil engineering.

Sela Tunnel across Sela Pass is located more than 250 km away from a railhead. The area witnesses very high rainfall and heavy snowfall during the winter. The temperatures drops up to minus 20 degrees which led to the drying up of all water sources, causing technical issues for concrete works and hampering the efficiency of manpower and machines alike.

Initially, it was decided to commence excavation and tunnelling operation from the Nuranang side which would allow excavation of the longer tunnel (T2) first. However, when the portal was being prepared, it was realized that the rock mass was very poor and unsuitable for locating the tunnel mouth. We deliberated upon the issue and it was decided to move the portal location 100 m to the West. Accordingly, tunnel excavation was started.

However, this had ramifications for the complete alignment as the other tunnel and roads had to be now realigned to meet the requirement of permissible gradients. The task involved carrying out a de-novo reconnaissance of the complete Sela Ridge and locating portals at suitable locations. This task was carried out by means of a detailed foot reconnaissance using Total Station.

The task was not only technically challenging due to lack of line of sight but was also extremely risky due to the steep and rugged terrain. After working out various combinations, the alignment was finalized and the first blast at T1 from the Baisakhi side was carried out.

The excavation process through the Himalayas encounters heterogeneous rock mass with varying stress conditions necessitates a dynamic approach to tunnel support design as tunnel supports have to be calibrated as per encountered conditions. During the excavation of the Sela Tunnel, this became extremely critical as time for excavation of tunnels had to be reduced drastically to make up for the eighteen months lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The site team constituted a geotechnical group that ensured that the rock and stress conditions were analyzed on a daily basis based on the 3-D monitoring data and load cells. The group then optimized the tunnel supports by using a combination of friction rock bolts, grouted rock bolts and passive supports to achieve the shortest possible excavation cycles. The project achieved four km of tunnel excavation in less than two years, a remarkable feat at 13000 feet of altitude.

The site team constituted a geotechnical group that ensured that the rock and stress conditions were analyzed on a daily basis based on the 3-D monitoring data and load cells. The group then optimized the tunnel supports by using a combination of friction rock bolts, grouted rock bolts and passive supports to achieve the shortest possible excavation cycles. The project achieved four km of tunnel excavation in less than two years, a remarkable feat at 13000 feet of altitude.

The rock mass under which Sela Tunnel has been excavated has water bodies like Sela Lake perched on top, due to which joints in the rock mass are filled with water. The water-bearing joints undergo a freeze-thaw cycle which opens up the joints and weakens the rock mass. During construction, a massive cavity was encountered in the main tube of the longer tunnel. Though this impeded our work, we overcame the challenge.

The geotechnical group was pressed into action in order to analyze the cause and suggest solutions. It was expeditiously decided to isolate the cavity area by progressing the excavation from the escape tube and approaching the cavity area from both sides: one from the main excavation face and the other from a cross passage ahead. By adopting this method, the excavation could progress normally while the cavity was being treated simultaneously.

Being at an altitude of 13000 feet, the project site experiences extremely low temperatures going down to minus 20 degrees Celsius at times. Such severe temperatures affected the manpower and machinery alike. Tunneling work is both mechanized and labour-intensive. During the winter months, the human output reduces drastically as workers are not able to continue for long hours at a stretch. The site work in these months was carried out by organizing four shifts of six hours each. The workers were provided with special clothing, work warming regimens and local heating arrangements on the site for better efficiency and good working conditions. Similarly, the equipment on site faced major challenges wherein the filters of BS-IV engines would get choked and the equipment would remain off-road for days together. These issues were obviated by using winter-grade diesel and using insulation layers on the plant. Many of the vehicles and equipment would have their engines kept running throughout the winter nights.

The final arch lining of the tunnel was executed using 12 m long gantry-based concrete shutters. Each arch lining segment consisted of 150 – 250 cum of concrete dependent on over breaks. Ordinarily, the concrete setting time is around 12-18 hrs; however, at the Sela Tunnel site, these setting times went up to 48 hours due to the low ambient temperatures and wind chill. The setting times were brought down by using halogen lamps for local heating and windscreens placed on the portals. Additional gantry-based formworks were inducted to further compress the timelines.

IA&D Executive Editor Chaitali Bag during the interview with Director General Border Roads Organisation Lt. Gen. Raghu Srinivasan, VSM

Q 5.  In order to make its road-building projects more efficient and successful, what technical breakthroughs and developments has the BRO implemented?

In recent times, the road infrastructure sector has witnessed huge growth in the country, which has resulted in faster & multifold socio-economic development in the region. This has become possible due to the infusion of the latest technologies and innovations in the field of construction. These techniques are proving beneficial, productive and time-saving with a consistent focus on sustainable development.

BRO has seen an infusion of the latest techniques, procedures and technologies in construction over the years to overcome the terrain and weather challenges we face. These include induction of Modular Bridges, micro piling under freezing conditions, use of Geo Cells, Cement treated bases, non-frost susceptible sub bases, slope stabilization using plenty of state-of-the-art techniques, snow redox systems and snow galleries for avalanche protection measures, interlocking concrete block pavements, plastic coated aggregates, cut & fit technology using precast concrete elements, white topping of roads in heavy rainfall areas, etc.

BRO has been at the forefront of introducing the latest technologies which are not only environment friendly but also cost-effective, these innovations have resolved many construction problems that have facilitated speedy execution of the infra development works. Let me tell you about some of these technologies.

Cementitious Bases:   BRO has started construction of pavements using a cementitious base, to reduce carbon footprints and adverse impact of construction on the environment. Roads TCC-Tasking and Maza & Mandala-Debrabu-Naga GG in Arunachal Pradesh are being developed using this technology.

Hill Protection:    Since BRO primarily works in ecologically sensitive areas, we are using various new technologies for slope stabilization to mitigate landslides & protect hill slopes. This is being carried by using various methods such as Drapery with Hill Side Gabion Wall, Dynamic Rockfall Barrier, Secured Drapery with Micro Piling & Rockfall Embankment, Geo Breast wall, Biodegradable Coir reinforced with Gabion Wall, Rock & Bolt Method & use of Geotextile Material with Erdox-Cruciform Horizontal Consolidation Units, Geo Synthetics, use of Pre-Stressed Cable Anchor, Reinforced Goemat, Hydro Seeding & Non-Woven Geo Textile, Geosynthetic Cementitious Composite Mat, Geo-synthetic membrane.

Inter Locking Concrete Blocks:  ILCBs are being laid over high-altitude mountain passes experiencing heavy snowfall, this has facilitated seamless snow clearance operations using tracked earthmovers and reduced damages to roads. This practice has exponentially brought down the maintenance cost and ensured speedy clearance of roads in challenging areas with minimum disruption to traffic. Further, laying of ILCBs has resulted in reduced wear and tear of equipment & vehicles and has enhanced the riding quality of the roads.

Pre-cast Cut & Cover Technology:  BRO is using Cut & Cover Technology for the construction of the Cut & Cover tunnel in Ladakh.

Cut and Fit Technology:  BRO worksites are located alongside the most difficult and harsh terrains of the world. These areas typically have very limited working seasons and completion of road projects in a time-bound manner therefore becomes a huge challenge for BRO. In order to overcome these challenges and enhance the pace of construction of the road, BRO has started incorporating the Cut & Fit technique in road construction. The basic idea of cut-and-fit construction is to precast all elements of the road in a casting yard under an ideal quality environment while the formation cutting of the road is done as a parallel activity. With this technique, sequential construction is replaced with parallel construction activity to shorten the overall project duration. BRO has executed a pilot project in Arunachal Pradesh on Along-Yingkiong Road with all the pre-cast elements i.e. protective structures, culverts, drains and pavements.

White Topping Technology:  White Topping is a Portland Cement Concrete overlay that is constructed on top of an existing bituminous road. This overlay acts as a long-term alternative for the rehabilitation or structural strengthening of roads. A pilot project of white topping for rehabilitation of pavement is underway on Tuting – Bona Road under Project Brahmank in Arunachal Pradesh which experiences heavy rainfall.

Route Guidance System:  Earlier, during snow clearance over high mountain passes, difficulties & challenges were faced by BRO in estimating the correct road alignment due to heavy snow accumulation. Operator’s past experience & several Hit & Trial methods were used to find out the actual alignment. To overcome this, BRO is conducting several trials at Zojila Pass using the Route Guidance System, in which a GPS server fed with road alignment data is attached to snow clearance equipment to obtain the precise location of the road. This will equip the operators with enhanced safety while undertaking extremely risky snow clearance operations.

BRO has shown its keen interest towards environment-friendly infrastructure development by using plastic waste in the construction of roads. We have introduced Carbon Neutral Habitats for our personnel in Ladakh and more such will be constructed all across our worksites. BRO also constructed a road stretch on Joram-Koloriang Road in Arunachal Pradesh using Steel slag, a by-product of steel with the help of CSIR – CRRI as an eco-friendly construction initiative.

BRO is working on the plastic-coated Aggregates during the construction of the road. Under an eco-friendly initiative to reuse plastic waste on various roads by BRO projects in friendly foreign countries in Bhutan and in roads constructed in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and in Mizoram states.

We have become innovative in our approach and also kept pace with modern technology, for which BRO has been interacting regularly with academia and professionals in the road and highway construction domain. We also have our own R&D Project at Shillong which is addressing construction challenges at various places. The road sector is seeing the adoption and implementation of innovative technologies in a big way. To sustain this, we need dedicated research and development by both the government and private sector & that’s where the future lies.

Q 6.  The BRO Budget has been increased and rightfully so. Does acquiring state-of-the-art technology and most modernized equipment constitute a portion of the increased expenditure?    

Our organization has witnessed a tremendous surge in our Budget allotment which has almost tripled in the last five years to Rs 14000 Cr in the year 2023-24. In the last financial year 2023-24, we have touched almost Rs 15000 Cr which has resulted in an unprecedented pace of infrastructure development boost to our defence preparedness besides bringing major socio-economic changes in the remote border areas. The fund allocated to the BRO around 5 years back used to be in the range of Rs 4500 Cr. The increased allocation of funds has enabled the BRO to execute more work and exploit the maximum of its resources. In the financial year 2023-24 breaking all previous records, we touched an expenditure of Rs 15000 Cr with a 33% increase in the capital budget for GS roads from Rs 4510 Cr to Rs 6000 Cr. We have also been able to simplify some archaic procedures which were impeding the progress of works. This, coupled with the delegation of enhanced Financial Powers to the DGBR, has been a major game changer allowing faster sanction of projects and related issues. Further, we have been assured that the availability of funds will not be a constraint for the development of critical road infrastructure along our borders.

Due to robust planning, optimal resource management, timely execution, synergy of actions at all levels and dedication and determination of BRO personnel, the Government is allotting us more work to achieve faster results. The budget allocation has increased manifolds in the last few years. In this financial year 2024-25, we are looking forward to increased budget allocation as the focus of the Government is on infrastructure development.

As far as modernization of the workforce is concerned, in the last financial year, 2023-24 equipment worth more than Rs 325 Crore was procured which includes state-of-the-art Auto batch mixer, excavators, self-propelled medium-weight Crawler Rock Drill, heavy-duty wagon drill etc.

We have spent approx 2% of the budget on the research and development of New Technologies. We at present are carrying out research studies on the ultra-high performance of compressive strength concrete between 150 MPa and 200 Mpa, design of dense bituminous mixes ( DBM & BC) using emulsion and PME separately with cold mix technology, Perpetual pavement study and research and its further application in High Altitude Areas, Prestressed Precast Concrete Pavement, Use of waste plastic as fibres in concrete structures for improved seismic performance and Estimation of the carbon footprint of road projects in Himalayan region of India etc.

To expedite these studies and research we are collaborating with IITs, and other agencies who can partner with us in faster infrastructure development. 

Q 7.  Supporting our PMs vision of Aatmanirbhar Bharat, along these lines, are there any initiatives being taken by BRO?

Since its raising, BRO has always been instrumental in Nation- Building through infrastructure development in border areas. This has resulted in strengthening our defence preparedness and socio-economic development of the border regions. BRO is playing a significant role in our collective vision of ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ by connecting far-flung places with the mainstream of India. BRO is also actively involved in road construction projects in India’s friendly neighbouring countries. BRO thus remains committed towards contributing immensely towards the Government impetus of accomplishing strategic objectives in the country.

Lately, there has been a major shift in policy in the construction of infrastructure along our border areas. Earlier we were constructing the roads only to the population centers. Now the roads are also being constructed to meet our strategic imperatives thereby making them dual use. This has resulted in strategic gains as also meeting the economic aspirations of people thus assisting the government policy of triggering reverse migration in our border villages. Roads are like arteries, on which education, medical facilities, employment and tourism flow. We have seen that our roads in border states like Ladakh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh have created greater opportunities for people to achieve a surge in economic prosperity which is remarkable. Initially, we used to create a single line of communication to our economic centers and strategic locations. However, with the government’s initiative, we are now working on multiple axes to our strategic locations

We have connected the first villages of the country like Demchok in Ladakh, Jolingkong in Uttarakhand, Huri in Arunachal Pradesh and Indira Point in Andaman & Nicobar Islands to the mainstream by constructing roads in these areas. Roads have brought in the development and presence of government services to these areas thereby triggering reverse migration. We have to understand that the presence of a friendly population is the best kind of defence in our remote villages next to the borders and BRO is playing an important role in this.

BRO and Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers (GRSE) Ltd signed a Memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the fabrication, supply, erection and launching of 75 double-lane indigenous galvanized modular bridges of the 7.5-meter carriageway with IRC Load class 70. One of the most important and critical advantages of the MoU will be the timefactor as these bridges can be launched within 45 days of handing over the site by the units.

We are also part of our Government’s initiative to transform waste into wealth. We have incorporated technologies like the use of steel slag, a byproduct of the steel-making process, and the use of plastic waste on the roads being constructed. When incorporated into bituminous mixes, steel slag and plastic waste offer several benefits that contribute to the durability, strength and sustainability of roads. Moreover, these methodologies promote sustainability by utilizing a recycled industrial byproduct and ensuring the safe disposal of waste plastic.     These initiatives not only make our roads better but also help in environment-friendly construction activities.

In the silence of our great mountains, our work speaks volumes about our dedication, perseverance, and the impact we create on the lives of people in the remotest corners of our country.

Q8.   You are now connecting parts of Ladakh and this network has been globally recognized. Can you elaborate on this achievement and also encapsulate other feathers in the BRO cap especially the Nimu-Padam-Darcha link making it the third link after the Srinagar-Leh and Manali-Leh linkage?

The strategic importance of Ladakh has been highlighted again and again with the ongoing tensions with our adversaries. BRO has given a lot of thrust towards providing connectivity to the remote areas along the Northern Borders in Eastern Ladakh in recent years.

We have made significant progress on Indo-China Border Roads and all other Operationally Critical Roads along the Northern Borders in Eastern Ladakh. Works on Alternate Connectivity to Daulat Beg Oldi in Eastern Ladakh are in advanced stages of completion. A few years back we were lacking even basic connectivity to strategic locations like Daulat Beg Oldi. Now we are discussing about completion of Alternate Connectivity to Daulat Beg Oldi. This is the transformation we have been able to bring in the infrastructure along the Borders.

We all know that the construction of the highest motorable road in the world, over the Umling La Pass in Ladakh, towering at an altitude of 19,024 ft, that challenges the very limits of human endurance, is a testament to the prowess of our engineers and the determination of our BRO personnel. As we revel in the pride of this achievement, I am delighted to announce yet another remarkable endeavour by the Border Roads Organisation. BRO has embarked on the construction of a road over the Mig La Pass in Ladakh at an altitude of 19,400 ft. This is a clear testament to our commitment to bettering our own records and pushing the boundaries of what we thought was impossible in the past.

Some of the major achievements of BRO in Ladakh include enhanced connectivity from Shyok to DBO, enhanced connectivity to Chusul and Nyoma and smoother connectivity to Hanle. With Hanle designated as a Night Sky Reserve, it will give a major boost to local tourism as well as tourists will be able to visit places like Hanle Observatory and Hanle Monastery as well.

It gives me immense satisfaction and pride to share the exceptional achievement of the BRO in providing connectivity on the third axis to Ladakh, the Nimu-Padum-Darcha Road, through the challenging Shinkun La Pass. 

As the nation was celebrating the festival of colours, Holi, the intrepid personnel of BRO were tirelessly cutting through vertical rock face connecting the final stretch of Niraq gorge in subzero temperature. 25th Mar 2024 marked the culmination of many years of hard work, toil, dedication and perseverance by BRO personnel in one of the most challenging terrain and trying weather conditions in the world.

The Nimmu-Padam-Darcha road is now the third axis apart from Manali-Leh and Srinagar-Leh which connects Ladakh to the hinterland. The Nimmu-Padam-Darcha road derives its strategic importance from the fact that it is not only shorter vis-a-vis the other two axes, but crosses only one pass; Shinkun La(16,558 feet) on which tunnel work is about to commence by BRO. This will result in the Road Nimmu-Padam-Darcha having all-weather connectivity to the strategically important Ladakh region. For decades, every Indian has harboured a dream of establishing all-weather connectivity to Leh, a dream that is now on the verge of becoming a reality, thanks to the relentless efforts of the BRO. The provision of connectivity along this strategic third axis to Ladakh will give a quantum boost to our defence preparedness along the Northern Borders.

In addition to these remarkable highway projects, BRO has also focused on enhancing air connectivity in these regions, ensuring that the Northern borders are accessible from all modes of transportation. I would like to inform all of you that BRO is constructing an Airfield at Nyoma-Mudh in Eastern Ladakh at an altitude of 13,710 ft. Work on this project is in advanced stages and will be dedicated to the Nation very soon. Now I would like to highlight that projects like these have dual utility. Firstly, they will further enhance the operational capability of the Indian Airforce along the Northern Borders in Eastern Ladakh and secondly, these Airfields can also be utilized as part of UDAN Scheme. These can further be utilized in emergency situations. Government is working on more such Air Infrastructure Projects along the Border Regions.

Q9.  Border Roads has given our ground forces major access into terrain something that irks China and it is this maneuverability that sparked the Galwan confrontation. Is there any organization in the world that comes even close to your exceptional track record and the support and power it has given to the nation’s security?

I firmly believe that National defence is no longer limited to Borders, but is much broader. The whole of the nation approach is the need of the hour for the defence of the Nation. Borders are not the endpoint, but a gateway to security and prosperity. People visiting villages in border areas should know them not as the last villages but as the first villages of India. This ideology has to be at the centre of planning infrastructure development along the Borders. Therefore, instead of competing against each other, National Defence has to be a subject of collective efforts. This is also reflected in the several initiatives taken by the Government of India in recent years. For instance Vibrant Village Programme. To make this program successful, the expertise of various Agencies available with us has to be utilized to the fullest.

Over the years, the BRO has established itself as the agency of choice for undertaking difficult, challenging, and time-bound projects. Our relentless pursuit of excellence and commitment to quality has set us apart, making us the preferred partner for critical infrastructure projects across the country. The pace and scale at which the Border Roads Organisation has undertaken and completed projects post-Galwan are immense. The surge in road construction undertaken by the Border Roads Organisation has not only improved the strategic mobility of our Armed Forces but the increased connectivity has facilitated trade, tourism, and the overall development of border regions, bringing prosperity to areas that were once isolated. BRO has completed 331 Infrastructure Projects at the cost of Rs 9560 Cr in the last three years alone.

I would like to share an important fact with you all today. You all will be surprised to know that roads across 11 out of 14 Highest Mountain Passes in the World are being constructed/maintained by the BRO. BRO is the only agency in our country that has connected the Northernmost and the Southernmost points of this Nation. BRO is not only working along our sensitive border regions but also in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. BRO has recently connected Indira Point to the mainland and construction of North–South Road from Campbell Bay to Indira Point in Great Nicobar Island is in advanced stages and is likely to be completed in the current year.

Our relentless efforts have brought several long-delayed projects to the verge of completion, marking a significant milestone in our journey of infrastructure development and national connectivity. Marsimikla – Hotspring Road in Eastern Ladakh has recently been completed. Similarly, connectivity on the Munsiari-Bughdiar – Milam road in Uttarakhand will be achieved by July 2024 as only two Km of road is balance, to be connected. Similarly, Gunji – Kutti – Jolingkong Road in Uttarakhand which provides connectivity to sacred Adi Kailash, Mago – Chuna Road and BJG –LJG Road in Arunachal Pradesh are going to be completed in 2024.

We have recently embarked on several mega projects that hold immense strategic and infrastructural significance for our country. One of the most important is the Arunachal Frontier Highway, a project of monumental importance. BRO has been entrusted with a 517 Km long section Huri-Tali-Taliha-Tato-Bile-Migging-Tuting. Out of 517 Km, work on 126.86 km i.e. between Tato-Bile &Migging-Tuting is already in progress under MoD (GS) funding. DPRs for balance works have been sanctioned and tendering action has been initiated.

The Sela Tunnel, the highest tunnel in the country, which was recently dedicated to the Nation by Hon’ble Prime Minister, stands as a shining example of our commitment to enhancing connectivity, fostering economic growth, and strengthening national security. This strategic tunnel not only improves access to the remote and strategic Tawang area of Arunachal Pradesh but also plays a crucial role in bolstering our defence infrastructure along the Northern Borders.

Very shortly, we will commence construction on 4.10 Km long Shinkun La Tunnel. This tunnel once completed will become the Highest Tunnel in the World at 15,800 feet bypassing Mila Tunnel in China at 15, 590 ft.

Today, BRO stands as a beacon of unity and strength with its Pan India Tri-Services footprint. From the Andaman to the Indo-Myanmar Border Fencing, from the Arunachal Frontier Highway to the Mudh Airfield, our presence resonates across the length and breadth of the Nation. This expansive reach underscores our commitment to national security and connectivity.

BRO remains fully committed to providing high-quality infrastructure enhancing the connectivity, safety, and socio-economic progress in the border regions. With the continued support of the government and the dedication of our personnel, the Border Roads Organisation will continue to spearhead transformative initiatives that shape the destiny of our Nation.

Q 10.  As BRO celebrates its 65th year of raising, would you like to talk about its role and the achievements of the year gone by?

On this auspicious occasion, I extend my warmest greetings to our brave personnel, Casual Paid Labourers and their families. This day holds immense significance as it allows us to reminisce about the journey and accomplishments of our esteemed Organisation. Since its inception in 1960, BRO has been pivotal in the nation-building process, particularly through its infrastructure development initiatives in border areas.

As we celebrate this occasion, I am filled with immense pride and gratitude for all that we have achieved collectively. In recent years, the BRO has emerged as the agency of choice for executing difficult projects in challenging conditions. Our ability to tackle complex projects with precision and efficiency has earned us the trust and confidence of the nation. It is heartening to note that numerous projects initially taken over by other agencies are now being handed back to the BRO, recognizing our capabilities and commitment.

Our footprint across the Nation is expanding, with ongoing works in the Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Border Fencing Works along the Indo – Myanmar Border, Arunachal Frontier Highway, and Mudh Airfield. This Pan India tri-services presence reflects our commitment to national security, connectivity, and development. BRO has emerged is the ‘Go To’ agency for surmounting challenges which hitherto were considered unthinkable.

Over the past year, the BRO has achieved remarkable milestones, from completing a record 126 projects comprising 516 Km of roads and 90 bridges. The completion of the strategic Sela Tunnel, connectivity achieved on the Nimu-Padum-Darcha Road and taming the mighty Shyok River at Saser Brangza speaks volumes about the BRO’s capabilities and determination to overcome challenges. Furthermore, completing two strategic tunnels and two airfields in just one year reflects our commitment to regularly expanding our horizons and pushing the boundaries of excellence.

Our response during Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief operations has set a benchmark that has no parallel. The recent incident in the Silkyara Tunnel and cloud burst at Sikkim bear witness to our dedication, promptness, and effectiveness in times of crisis. Our role in disaster relief operations showcases our agility and readiness to serve the nation at all times.

As we celebrate our achievements and reflect on our journey, I would like all of us to renew our pledge to continue “Connecting Places, Connecting People” and leave a lasting legacy of progress, prosperity, and unity.

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