The recent monsoon disaster has alerted our works and human settlement ministry, which is besides human settlements, also responsible for all the roads and bridges in the country.
Our connectivity problems are an annual event. We would expect ourselves to be better prepared with ever passing year.
To build a bridge between 24 to 48 hours in times of emergency sounds a bit ambitious but may be possible as claimed by experts. Further, the government approving Nu 100 million to procure bridge components in all the nine regional offices is comforting.
Perhaps, the bigger challenge in terms of preparedness for emergencies is coordination.
Take the example of the recent construction of the 160-foot bailey bridge at Kamji on the Phuntsholing-Thimphu road, which drew the nation’s attention and effort. The bridge was constructed in five days and that was made possible-besides the attention it had received at all levels-with the expertise of Project DANTAK and as one of the two bridge components being available with the Department of Roads. Otherwise, just procuring the bridge components itself would have taken ages.
According to the provisions of the Road Act of Bhutan 2013, the Department of Roads is the national roads authority and its powers and functions are specified under section 19. In particular, which is relevant for emergencies, section 19(16) makes the department responsible for mobilising machinery and human resources in the event of a natural disaster to restore and keep affected roads open to traffic.
Therefore, the roads department along with the ministry of works and human settlement must take full charge of works on any disaster on any of the roads in the country and be the main coordinator. It is clear that by law, the competent authority has no option but to discharge its responsibilities and be prepared at all times.
While things have worked smoothly for our country so far, uncertainties surround us given our terrain, which demands greater preparedness for connectivity from our authorities concerned.