Whether or not the Mao Chu locally known as Maokhola in Gelephu will have a motorable bridge over it at any point of time; nobody is certain about this quandary, yet too much water has flown down this river ever since the maiden episode of the bridge over the Mao River has begun to settle and surface in the distant past. In a similar vein, it is not exactly known when the four gewogs and its people on the other side of Maokhola will have a permanent bridge over the river to connect them to the rest of Gelephu and beyond. The Maokhola over both the distant and the recent past has become the nucleus and the DNA of debate and discussion euphoria synonymous to Gelephu.  To this day, the Maokhola has invariably continued to secure and underpin a formidable space and a chapter in the book of the socio-economic expedition and arena of Gelephu and its region.

Viewed from the geographical frame of mind, the Maokhola in Gelephu is the principal river in the region joined by a number of tributaries along the course until it meanders into the border.   The disposition of this Maokhola in the recent decades has vehemently attracted the interest and attention from a wide spectrum and strata of people from the local end to the people on the opposite part of the globe.  Unsurprisingly yet, it has surpassed its popularity amongst any other major river system in the country due to its enigmatic and unpredictable nature and the predicament it escorts and ushers into the life of the people in the region. The absence of a bridge over this river has empirically monopolized this river to dictate the life of people on the either sides adversely hitting hard the more on the other side from the socio- economic pedestal.

During the summer months in the region, this river comes down from the mountains in great fury and splendor.  Legend has it that the river is known to claim the lives of people every summer in the past years. Conventional arrangements such as boats are used to ferry and cross the river posing huge and greater risks to the lives of the people during monsoon. These arrangements, however, do not seem to work for days during floods and rains. Contrastingly, winter months paint a mild and pleasant picture with temporary bridges built over the river only to disappear with the onset of the ensuing monsoon. This vicious cycle of life in recurring agony during summer and heaving a sigh of relief during the winter months have rolled on from about a time no one exactly remembers when.  Beyond this point, there is virtually no signpost in this direction to see what lies ahead of the coming time.

It has been learnt that a pre-feasibility study of a bridge over this river has been undertaken in the past. Understandably, owing to the feasibility issue and the huge cost associated coupled with other glitches of varying sizes surrounding the proposed bridge over this river, this matter seemingly has been shelved off for now however much quintessential and paramount as it may have seemed to appear.  No doubt, the feasibility of building a bridge to span over the meandering Maokhola to con-nect the gewogs on the other side technically and literally calls for an engineering feat. What stands out amidst the dim possibilities and a thwarting challenges is that there is no easy solution to the Maokhola issue.

This issue positioned at the local junction over time seems to have become a national issue at hand. As it transpired through the past decade in the earlier two parliamentary elections and as speculated, the Maokhola once again is in the limelight and in the reins of the party manifestos of the political parties this time too. Regardless of whether the people’s dream of having a bridge over the river transpires or not, political parties have come and gone by, government had evolved and dissolved and what remains to this day has been the same raw and naked river at its best spinning the vicious cycle of agony and anguish between summer and winter in the lives of the people of this region.

Notably, the Maokhola is considered to be the only solitary river in the country whose name has been usurped by the name of the party candidate who pledged to build a bridge over it. Residents and locals in the region have known this infamous river more famously as Prem Khola instead. From a hypothetical stand point, residents of these region would already have had two bridges built over this river by now if the party pledges were anything to go by the promises made by the parties in the past parliamentary elections.

In the recent decades, the country has made formidable stride in a myriad of disciplines including engineering and technology among others of which the latest to join the bandwagon has been seen to be the country’s first space borne satellite. Gauging by the pace of advancement and evolution over time, it’s about time this river now conjures the possibility of an engineering phenomenon.

Undoubtedly, a motorable bridge over this river would have a rippling effect on the elevation of the socio-economic graph of this region besides ameliorating the life of the people far and near in numerous other terms.  There appears to be a ray of hope and a light at the end of this Maokhola tunnel. And many a times, we have seen that hope is not a strategy that can make things happen, yet it appears that days are not far away when the dream of these people would be fulfilled one day although how and when fundamentally remains to be known. A paradox of hope and despair has interlocked this chapter for long enough. The urgency to decipher this paradox is in the air like never before in the past.


Contributed by  Kezang Namgyel

Bhutan Hydropower Service Limited

Jigmiling, Gelephu