It is drizzling at the bridge construction site over Tanalungchu on the Damchu-Chukha bypass road in Chukha. On one side of the site, about 10 Project DANTAK workers, some with raincoats on feed stone chips and sand into a mixing machine.

This machine is connected to the bridge towards the Chukha side and the mixture is laid systematically.

About 30 workers have left to cast their votes in West Bengal. From the remaining 40, some are at the bridge and others occupied with the road maintenance works.

The 145-metre “balanced cantilever bridge” at 8.45km towards Chukha from Damchu is the most important bridge for the Thimphu-Phuentsholing national highway. It is the last of the three bridges that is awaiting completion to connect the 29.2km Damchu-Chukha bypass road.

Work on about 12-metres of the bridge is left for completion by the first week of June. There are two segments each remaining on either side. Each segment is three metres long and constructed to join at the midpoint.

Once the segment completes, it is used as an erection platform and launching base for all remaining works and segment concreting.

A Project DANTAK junior engineer at the site, Pawan Kumar said that the 12-metres length could have been connected at the end of this month had the labourers not gone for the panchayat election.

Pawan Kumar said they would connect the bridge by the first week of June if the weather conditions were favourable. This means the Project DANTAK would complete a segment each in six days.

“All work is going as per the plan and design as of now,” the engineer said.“We are also working hard to finish the whole package by June end.”

Meanwhile, June is also the deadline the Project DANTAK chief engineer, PKG Mishra had announced in August 2017 during the works and human settlement minister, Dorji Choden’s visit.

About 40 percent of the works over this bridge were completed then. Today, about 90 percent of the task is complete, Pawan Kumar said.

Pawan Kumar also said they would try to complete the related approach works along with the bridge construction.

Of the three bridges on the bypass, the 75-metre span bridge over Jangthalumchu at 11.70km towards Chukha has already been completed and pliable. The bridge over the Sirupachu was completed first.

The 29.2km Damchu-Chukha bypass road construction started on March 19, 2010. After missing four deadlines, with the last being June 2017, Project DANTAK had assured the construction would complete by June this year.

Although it is a part of Bhutan’s national road network, the director with the roads department, Tenzin said that Project DANTAK is executing all the Damchu-Chukha bypass works.

“They send us the progress reports,” he said, adding that the department is also expecting the bypass to get connected in June as Project DANTAK has said.

Although it is not finalised yet, director Tenzin also said that the bypass would be inaugurated by July or August this year.

Damchu-Chukha bypass road launch is also listed as one of the events for the celebration of 50 years relationship between Bhutan and India.

The revised cost of the project was Nu 2,803.4 million as of last year. The bypass, once complete, would shorten the Thimphu-Phuentsholing highway by 19.5km, reducing more than an hour of travel time.

Rajesh Rai | Damchu