Choki Wangmo  

The collapse of the motorable bailey bridge over Maokhola under construction in Chhudzom Gewog, Sarpang on March 3 is caused by the use of old panels.

The construction of the 50-metre bridge started in April last year and the bridge is part of the Gaalegthang chiwog farm road. It was expected to be complete by February this year.

According to the site contractor, the incident happened when the old panels were removed from the bridge. The panels were provided by the Department of Roads. He said that in bailey bridge construction, single and double panels are laid followed by DDR panels. DDR is the most important part of the bridge, he said.

“Once DDR is laid, we have to remove the single and double panels. The bridge collapsed during this procedure,” the contractor said.

He said that the incident happened in the evening and there were no casualties.

The incident came as a blow to about 3,000 residents of Gaalegthang, Sherabling, and Jangchubling chiwogs, who are said to have even contributed voluntary labour at the construction site to complete the works on time.

Disappointed villagers said that the construction would be delayed as the individuals and agencies responsible will have to start the work again. Abutment and site development works, however, were completed on time.

The contractor, however, said that the works would be completed by May. “Due to delays in procuring construction materials, we have a time extension until May 12. We have started dismantling works and have placed orders for new panels from India.”

Gelephu had seen their elected representative hold ministerial posts raising hope for the bridge. It had not happened. Every candidate during the elections pledged to build a bridge over Maokhola during the election period. In 2019, the government said that Maokhola bridge could materialise by December 2022. The plan is in hold since the Covid-19 outbreak in the country.

Every monsoon is a nightmare for the residents, living in constant threats of flood from the swelling Maokhola. Tragedies from the recent floods are still afresh in the memories of the people living in the area. Legend has it that the river is known to claim the lives of people every summer in the past years.

Once complete, the bridge would reduce the travel time for about 800 residents of Gaalegthang chiwog by an hour and by 20 minutes for Jangchubling residents.

“We were excited for our school-going children. It is risky to cross Maokhola during monsoon,” a resident said.

During winter, the communities come together to build temporary bridges.

The construction of more than 40km Gaalegthang chiwog farm road is built at the cost of Nu 1.6 million from the spillover of the gewog block grant.