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Challenges Of High Altitude Logistics / Rough Terrain Logistics

Specialised vehicles like refrigerated vehicles, containers that carry bulk fuel and other essentials are also used in these terrains to ensure product integrity up to storage points.

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It is a well-recognized fact particularly in a country as diverse as India that there are areas across our country that pose several challenges in terms of weather and terrain when it comes to logistics and ensuring uninterrupted supplies of products and services particularly at high altitudes. These are not only consumed by the local population but also our military forces guarding nation’s borders.

High altitude regions are accessible only by road and air. Some of the most difficult and rough terrain roads form part of these regions. Further, these are not open round the year but only for a few months before snow set in. It is within this narrow time frame one needs to build up supplies for the entire year. Natural calamities pose another serious challenge and bottleneck.

Logistics in these regions require high level of skills both at physical and mental level. And often the last mile is the most difficult as not all types of vehicles can access these regions and traditional ways of carrying goods with the help of local animals like mules and Yak (animal transport) or even civilian porters are the only recourse to ensure last mile connectivity.

Forecasting, inventory planning and stocking has to be well planned keeping in mind the months when goods can be shipped to high altitude areas. Factors like shelf life of products and packaging play a crucial role in ensuring that they last till the next round of replenishment, which will fall after winter season only. When it comes to supplies of military forces the task becomes even more stimulating. The diaspora of products for which logistics infrastructure has to relentlessly work ensuring high standards of timely delivery range from food products and essentials, medicines and medical equipment, machinery, fuel and gases, apparel and clothing and many more items.

Specialised vehicles like refrigerated vehicles, containers that carry bulk fuel and other essentials are also used in these terrains to ensure product integrity up to storage points. In certain cases, only air transport is the option for last mile connectivity, particularly in military supplies to forward posts.

If one looks at the enormity of the task of driving at high altitudes, than look at the hurdles one has to manoeuvre through, to name a few, low oxygen levels, damaged mountain roads after snowfall/rainfall, landslides limiting movement of heavy vehicles, extreme temperatures and minimal roadside support infrastructure for long distances.

The Himalayan ranges in India have some of the most difficult motorable roads in the world. The number of cliff-hangers, hairpin loops and bends tests the mettle of even the most experienced drivers and one can come across several crushed and broken trucks lying in the valley having met fatal outcomes.

Some of deadliest road in India are Kolli Hill also known as mountain of death, National Highway 22, Zoji La Pass on National Highway 1, Sangla Road and Rohtang Pass. The pictures below can give an idea of the dangerous and full of peril terrain.

When we talk of high altitude logistics any discussion without the mention of Siachen will be incomplete, world highest border post at almost 20000 ft above sea level and temperature ranging up to -50 degree Celsius. For Siachen, the trucks have to pass through the formidable Khardung La (at 18,380 feet it is considered the world’s highest motorable pass) and then travel another 200-odd km to reach Siachen base camp or any nearest base in the Turtuk sector. The coordination between men and machine to ensure the Siachen is well stocked up is highly complex. Several modes of transport are used in combination to ensure supplies the world’s highest border post.

The role of logistics of keeping the lifeline at high altitudes moving with all the challenges will only make us appreciate the effort of all the stakeholders who ensure that these regions functions in as normal a manner as one can imagine, round the year.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Rahul Mathur

Strategic Partner, Sitics Logistic Solutions Private Limited

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