Studying from Ladakh expertise, Military steps up work on reducing acclimatisation interval for troops

Vijay Mohan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 25

As the large-scale military deployment along the Line of Actual Control continues with no imminent signs of early withdrawal, the Army has stepped up work on reducing the acclimatisation period for troops being moved to high altitude areas.

At present, the acclimatisation period for troops is 11 days, done in three stages at different altitudes.

The Army is exploring options where a certain number of troops stationed in lower altitudes are always acclimatised for high-altitude operations or where the period can be reduced significantly through the use of medications.

While India routinely maintains a sizable troop strength deployed in the high-altitude areas in the eastern as well as western theatres, a large number of troops from various parts of the country, including mechanised units and support elements, were rushed to Ladakh following a serious face-off with China that began earlier this year and is continuing.

From about a division that was deployed in eastern Ladakh, the strength went up to about three divisions, an officer said. The acclimatisation process was not only consuming time but also required commensurate infrastructure and logistics for accommodating the troops, he added.

Many formations that are also meant to be deployed in the high-altitude areas in addition to other roles, have their peacetime locations in the plains.

“The recent crisis has shown that troops may be required to move to high-altitude areas urgently for which they have to be acclimatised at all times so that they can be deployed operationally at the earliest, an officer said, adding: “We are now laying stress on redressing this issue.”

Acclimatisation is critical for troops because low-oxygen levels and inclement climate can have adverse physiological, psychological, biochemical and hormonal effects on the human body and can result in acute mountain sickness, high-altitude pulmonary edema and high-altitude cerebral edema.

Both the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Directorate-General Armed Forces Medical Services (DGAFMS) have been carrying out multi-faceted research in this regard.

A recent study by the Indian Army medical specialists suggests that troops can be inducted from the sea-level to high-altitude areas in as little as four days if they are administered certain preventive medications such as Acetazolamide and Dexamethasone.

Another option being explored is the simulation of the high-altitude conditions at lower levels where earmarked formations are based. Atmospheric pressure and oxygen levels prevalent in high altitudes can be simulated in rooms to which troops can be exposed for the required period.

Some DRDO laboratories dealing with life sciences have developed small-sized chambers for research where the desired environmental conditions, be it high mountains, hot deserts or humid forests, can be created. The size and scope of such chambers can be expanded and modified to cater to larger requirements.

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