Major General Mrinal Suman, AVSM, VSM, PhD, commanded an Engineer Regiment on the Siachen Glacier, the most hostile battlefield in the world.
According to Indian scriptures, all areas above the tree line are unfit for human living. They are ascended by humans at the end of their `van-prastha`stage to seek salvation, as was done by the Pandavas.
Such a premise is also supported scientifically. Lack of flora and fauna, coupled with acute shortage of oxygen and excessive intensity of ultra-violet rays make areas above tree line highly unsuitable for habitation. Leaving aside snow and boulders, there are no local resources available. Every single item for sustenance has to be brought in at enormous effort.
The peculiarities of the challenges faced can be gauged from the fact that disposal of human excreta has been defying all solutions - chemical, biological and physical. Due to extremely low temperatures, it just does not decompose and remains unchanged for ever, posing major hygiene problems. At a height of over 18,000 feet, the Siachen Glacier is the world`s highest battle field. The enormity of effort required for living and fighting at that altitude can be judged from the fact that the highest mountain in the Alps is Mont Blanc at 15,774 ft, and climbers carry oxygen with them.
Image: Braving numbing cold and icy winds, a Jawan keeps vigil for enemy intrusions on the Siachen Glacier. Picture copyright Bharat Rakshak, unauthorized reproduction prohibited