Yangyel Lhaden 

For more than three months, residents of Begana below Tango in Thimphu have been taking a long detour to reach school, gewog offices, and the primary health centre across Thimchhu.

The Bailey bridge that connects Begana chiwog, under Kawang gewog with the Pangrizampa-Kabesa road was removed in February.

The Bailey bridge, built in 1985 with a carrying capacity of 20 metric tonnes (MT), was supposed to be replaced with a steel composite bridge with 70MT.

A Department of Roads (DoR) official said the construction of a temporary motorable bridge at Begana was not feasible and the traffic was directed via Pangrizampa-Kabesa road.

Begana residents said that without a bridge, the residents closer to the bridge area had to travel more than seven kilometres to avail services from the gewog office and school. Earlier they reached these offices in less than half an hour on foot.

The residents built a temporary footbridge with materials supplied by DoR to go to the health centre for Covid-19 vaccination.

A resident in Begana, Touchu said some elderly people who couldn’t cross the wooden bridge during the vaccination campaign were moved across the river in an excavator’s bucket.

Today, students use the wooden bridge to go to school.

Parents said with the onset of the monsoon they worried about the safety of their children since the river level could rise any time and wash away the bridge.

There is a suspension bridge at Changtagang, which is downstream from Begana and closer to Kabesa. Students from Begana Chiwog commuting across this bridge take more than an hour to reach school.

A Thimphu Regional DoR engineer said that the temporary steel footbridge would be constructed before the monsoon. “The construction of a temporary steel footbridge is awarded to NT traders on April 10 and is expected to complete by May 25.”

He said fabrication of the temporary steel footbridge was underway.

The old bridge parts were used to construct a temporary bypass bridge in Khasadrapchu where a new bridge is being constructed.

The engineer said unlike Begana which had an alternative route from Kabesa road, Khasadrapchu did not have one. “If a temporary bridge was not built on the Khasadrapchu- Bjemina road, the area would be totally cut off.”

He said the traffic and movement of people in Begana would not be affected after the steel footbridge is constructed.

The construction of two bridges in Begana and Khasadrapchu is awarded to a contractor for about Nu 21.74 million. The construction is expected to complete by June 24, 2022. 

“We expect to bring bridge abutment above the water level before monsoon to have minimal impact and work progress,” the engineer said. 

However,  the engineer said, due to the lockdowns and challenges to import raw materials during the pandemic, the contract duration could extend.