After remaining out of bounds for traffic for around five months, the Manali-Leh Highway is likely to be reopened to motorists in 10 days as snow-clearing operation is on, an official said on Tuesday.
"The work to clear the snow is going on at a fast pace. If the weather remains favorable, traffic between Manali and Leh is likely to be restored in 10 days," Border Roads Organisation (BRO) Commander Col A.K. Awasthi told IANS over the phone.
He said that in some stretches close to the Baralacha Pass, snow accumulation was more than 20 feet, a big challenge for those involved in snow clearance.
He said work to repair the entire 475-km stretch -- which links the Himachal Pradesh tourist city with Leh in Jammu and Kashmir -- was also underway.
The route is crucial to the movement of armed forces and their supplies and wares to forward areas in Ladakh.
The Manali-Leh highway winds its way through the Rohtang Pass (13,050 ft), Baralacha Pass (16,020 ft), Lachlungla Pass (16,620 ft) and Tanglangla (17,480 ft).
The BRO maintains strategic highways in the country.
BRO's 'Project Deepak' is responsible for clearing snow on the 222-km Sarchu-Manali highway while 'Project Himank' takes care of the 253-km Leh-Sarchu highway.
A Himachal Road Transport Corp official told IANS here that it would take at least 10 days to restart the bus service between Delhi and Leh via Manali and Keylong once the highway was opened to traffic.
The Rohtang Pass -- the main tourist attraction located 52 km from here -- has already been opened for tourists after snow clearance.
Only 1,200 taxi or private vehicle permits -- 800 petrol vehicles and remaining diesel -- are issued online daily on first-come-first-served basis to visit the Rohtang Pass.
A mobile app for the issuance of permits to motorists to cross the Rohtang Pass was launched on Monday by Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur.
Earlier, a permit was available online on payment of Rs 550 through the district administration's website.
On every Tuesday, when the BRO repairs the Rohtang road, vehicles are not allowed to go beyond the Gulaba barrier from Manali.
The idyllic settings of the Himalayas draw an increasing number of backpackers, especially foreigners, for adventure activities like mountain biking, rock climbing and jungle trekking.