Project Udayak of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has built a 720m bridge in Arunachal Pradesh. Linking the vast gap of Lohit and Dibang valley, the bridge called Digaru, fulfills the longstanding requirements of infrastructurecommunications development for Arunachal Pradesh. This shall also facilitate strategic movement of men and material for the Army, particularly in view of development of the Tibetan Autonomous Region opposite the deployment of Chinese forces. It is the longest bridge constructed by the BRO and was inaugurated at a function in Lohit district by Dr MM Pallam Raju, Minister of State for Defence and Chairman, Border Roads Development Board.
The inauguration ceremony was attended by Lt Gen S Ravi Shankar, Director General Border Roads (DGBR), Lt Gen Dalbir Singh, GOC, 3 Corps and other civil and military dignitaries. While constructing the bridge, the biggest challenges were overcome by the team of experts in BRO. It has been erected in extremely tough terrain rife with harsh weather conditions. During that time of his visit, Pallam Raju faced bad weather conditions and as a result his helicopter could not take off for Tezu. Since the visit could not be postponed he travelled by road and underwent more than five hours of gruelling journey. He crossed Alubari Ghat on traditional ferries or boats and experienced the hardships faced by the local population and Army personnel in the absence of bridges in the foothills of Arunachal Pradesh. Local authorities and the Army’s ‘Dao’ Mountain Division made all logistic arrangements for the movement of the minister by road and ferry crossings flawlessly despite the short notice.
During the road journey, Raju inspected each activity of road and bridge construction on National Highways NH-13 and NH- 15. After the inauguration, he also inspected the portion of trans-Arunachal Highway being constructed by the BRO and visited Paya Production Centre where all the pavement works material was produced. The Minister complemented BRO for the excellent done, quite comparable to the international standards despite severe constraints. At the inaugural event the minster was thanked for making it to the venue despite the inclement weather and a long road journey involving more than 11 hours both ways. The DGBR also gave an account of all roads and bridges infrastructure that are in the pipeline. Lt Gen Dalbir Singh complemented all the officers and personnel involved in Project Udayak. He coveyed his compliments to the 48 Border Roads Task Force for completing the longest departmentally constructed Digaru Bridge. The highlight of the Bridge is 1.6 km-long guide embankment and approach roads in record period. With the humble beginning of two projects in 1960 — Beacon in the north and Vartak in the east— today there are 15 Chief Engineer Projects spread over the length and breadth of the country. BRO has earned the reputation of the only road construction agency in the country to construct and maintain roads in the most inhospitable terrain.
The people of India’s border areas have immense faith in BRO towards maintenance of lifelines of Sikkim, Bhutan, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura, Meghalaya, Jammu & Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Andaman & Nicobar Islands. BRO has constructed 46,780 km of roads in difficult and remote areas of the country. This includes new constructions, improvement from single lane to double lane and roads for coal fields of Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha. BRO, had over the years, bridged river gaps of the hilly regions of north and northeast with equipment bridges like Bailey, Bailey Suspension, Hamilton and Inglis bridges. These are being replaced with major or minor permanent bridges.
BRO has replaced 29,302 m of temporary bridges with permanent bridges. In February 2008, when Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh visited Arunachal Pradesh, following Defence Minister AK Antony’s visit and his observations on China’s major strategic infrastructural development across the Line of Actual Control there, he announced a massive long overdue developmental package for our land of the rising sun increasing China’s ire. The decision for speedy implementation of projects by Border Roads Organisation (BRO) meant relocation of its resources from other states. However, with the kind of challenges the altitude and terrain that Arunachal Pradesh poses for road construction, Director-General, Border Roads, Lt General MC Badhani, made a considered request for helicopters to move equipment to complete the project at a fast pace.
During a meeting of the Border Roads Development Board (BRDB) at Itanagar, Pallam Raju gave BRO the green signal of hiring helicopters from outside agencies to expedite construction of strategic roads in Arunachal Pradesh and other Himalayan border states, like Uttarakhand. Out of a total of 5,061 km of road length planned in high altitude areas, 2,764 km of roads are for Arunachal Pradesh alone. BRO is currently constructing approximately 9,000 km of roads, maintaining about 20,000 km of roads, including 5,000 km of National Highways. Another vitally important activity of the BRO is winter and summer snow clearance, in high altitude in snow bound areas to keep roads open for traffic during winter and open up roads closed in winter, before the summer sets in. There are approximately 90 roads of a total length of 2,900 km in J&K, Himachal, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, where the BRO carries out snow clearance, not only to ensure the provision of logistic support for the Army, but also to provide road connectivity to the local population in these far flung areas.
Some of these roads traverse over mountain passes as high as over 16,000 feet and snow precipitation of 3 to 4.5 m with the accumulation as high as 31 m at avalanche sites. Known for its capabilities and efficiency, BRO has been called upon to execute some major tasks in foreign countries. It was entrusted with the technically and high security risk assignment of constructing the 215 km long road Delaram-Zaranj in Afghanistan by the government of India. Incidentally, this is the first tarmac road in Nimroz Province of Afghanistan executed by large detachment of the BRO, comprising approximately 700 personnel (300 BRO & 400 ITBP) and successfully completed on July 17, 2008. During the terror attacks, BRO lost three personnel and the ITBP guarding them lost two. Rehabilitation of the runway along with other auxiliary works like construction of aprons, ATC buildings and other facilities in Tajikistan was done in a record time of 10 months at a cost of 50 crores.
The 160 km of high quality road was constructed in Burma/Myanmar along Tamu-Kalemyo – Kalewa in record time. In Bhutan, Project Dantak has constructed and maintained roads, and constructed an International Airport at Paro at an altitude of 2,300 m in 1968 and subsequently strengthened and extended of the same in 2007-08.
— Col Anil Bhat (retd), an independent defence and security analyst, is Editor, Word Sword Features