From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Chisumle- Demchok Road
Mains level : Critical border infrastructures
Ladakh’s Chisumle-Demchok Road, when it crosses the Umling Pass, is now the world’s highest motorable road.
Chisumle- Demchok Road
- The project to build the road through the pass — a part of Border Roads Organization (BRO) Project Himank — had been completed in 2017, after which vehicles had started playing on the route.
- The road is in south Ladakh. It passes through Umling La Pass, which is at a height of over 19,000 feet.
- The height of the pass makes it the highest motorable road in the world, and was recently recognized as such by Guinness World Records.
- The 52-km road ‘black-top’ tarmac road from Chisumle to Demchok betters the previous record of a road in Bolivia, which connects the volcano Uturuncu at 18,953 feet.
- The road was built under extremely challenging conditions, as temperatures in the region can fall to below minus 40 degrees Celsius, and oxygen levels go down to 50 per cent below normal.
Top of the world
- At the pass, the road is higher than both the base camps for the climb to Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain.
- The South Base Camp in Nepal is at a height of 17,598 ft, while North Base Camp in Tibet is at 16,900 ft.
- The Chisumle-Demchok road is also higher than the Siachen Glacier, which is situated at 17,700 feet.
- Khardung La in Leh, which at one time was among the highest roads in the world, is at an altitude of 17,582 feet.
Military significance of the road
- This road provides a direct route from Chisumle, which lies on the major road coming from Leh, Karu and Nyoma.
- All of these stations have important military stations which are close to the Line of Actual Control.
- Demchok has been an India-China flashpoint earlier, the site of a standoff between the two armies in 2016.
- In the current standoff in eastern Ladakh, which began in May 2020, Demchok has come up as a point of contention.
Other benefits offered
- The new axis will be helpful for the armed forces, making it easier to mobilize troops and equipment, including rations.
- The road will not only enable faster movement of armed forces to the region but will also boost tourism and improve the socio-economic condition of the local people in the region.
- Since the road goes through such a high pass, road transport will be unfeasible during the winter, when the armed forces rely on air support.