Most recently, the Prime Minister, armed with a core-cutting machine ventured on a mission to personally check the quality of completed portions of the east-west highway.
It was found that the quality of these completed portions not only met the thickness required but surpassed the standards expected.
This is an unprecedented milestone for roads in Bhutan built by local contractors.
Most local contractors do not enjoy a good reputation for the quality of roads. There are many stories of compromising on quality and examples of roads disintegrating within a month of being paved.
It is exemplary that the Prime Minister himself has undertaken the responsibility of ensuring that the quality of the east-west highway, which is being built using local companies, meets the required standards.
We’re hopeful that standards will continue to be surpassed even if the Prime Minister is not personally inspecting the quality. The road is a matter of national prestige. The reputation of the government, Bhutanese contractors, and country as a whole is resting on this project, at least in terms of quality roads.
The goal is for the east-west highway to not only reduce travel time but provide a comfortable and safer journey. One of the top complaints from tourists has been the long travel times and condition of our roads.
The new east-west highway, it is hoped, will address these concerns for both tourists and locals.
Another goal is for the highway to last the next ten years. This is an ambitious target.
For this to be achieved, it is hoped that not only the thickness and composition of the road is being regularly checked but that other factors like drainage and stability of certain areas.
The completion of the Semthokha to Wangdue portion of the east-west highway has already been deferred to June 2017. The delay is being attributed to the heavy monsoon and water seepage, which required newly paved areas to be dug up and re-paved.
With climate change occurring, the weather is getting unpredictable. Heavier monsoons could occur. It is important that drainage along the highway is accorded as much priority as the thickness of the highway and to ensure that rain water flows of the road rather than accumulate on it or its shoulders. It is a simple problem but one that could destroy even the best laid roads.
Slope stability also has to be addressed. Simply building concrete retention walls does not seem to always stop landslides from occurring, as evidenced on the Thimphu-Paro highway. Other landslide mitigation methods need to be used more such as bio-nets, geo-mats, brushwood, anchors and nailing, among others.
The east-west highway has to be come a symbol of national pride. With the Prime Minister personally going on inspections, we can rest a bit more assured that this goal will be met.