The bridge over Bhalujora in Pasakha, which was damaged recently, has been restored. Light vehicles are now able to ply over it.

A 14-wheeler Indian truck, with more than 35 metric tonnes (MT) load, headed to Pasakha industrial estate had plied the bridge on June 1 afternoon and damaged it on one side. The bridge’s capacity is only eight MT.

Chief engineer with the department of roads (DoR) in Phuentsholing regional office, Dorji Wangdi said they were able to get the truck out on Sunday June 2 evening.

“We were able to restore the bridge on June 4,” he said.

Dorji Wangdi said they replaced the damaged bridge parts.

Between 2016 until today, this is the third time the bridge has been damaged and repaired.

Heavy and continuous rain in 2016 had swollen Bhalujhora stream causing it to damage the bridge severely. The bridge was again damaged in June 2018 and repaired.

However, it was the damage the bridge sustained between 2013 and 2014 that weakened the bridge permanently. Since then, only light vehicles were allowed to ply. Industrial trucks are diverted from another route through the river upstream.

The repair this time, a quick one though, could be the final one, residents in Pasakha said.

The new 123-metre pre-stressed concrete connecting girder bridge would be fully raised and ready by end of this month.

Construction Development Corporation Limited (CDCL) is constructing the bridge. CDCL was awarded the work in 2018 at Nu 77.2 million. It is one of the South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) projects in Phuentsholing funded with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) grant.

Pasakha residents welcome the new bridge and better service with mixed feelings.

A taxi driver, Lhab Dorji, who has been in Pasakha for 28 years said life, would be much easier with the new bridge.

“We will have no tensions then,” he said. “We hear it will be ready in a month’s time.”

Lhab Dorji, who ferries school children from Pasakha to Chumigthang MSS daily, said he used to keep his cab on the other side of the river every summer when the bridge was damaged and the river swollen.

A shopkeeper, Deepa Gurung said the existing bridge was a big problem.

“Children’s school bus used to get stranded on the other side,” she said.

Residents say that even a primary school in Allay village was closed, about six years ago, due to problems related to the bridge and flooding. It was shifted to Chumigthang MSS, they told Kuensel.

Bhalujhora Bridge was constructed in 1986.

Meanwhile, it is not just Bhalujhora and the bridge over it that caused problems. Baunijhora, about a kilometre away towards Phuentsholing also caused major problems to residents in Pasakha as the dry Baunijhora riverbed swells during monsoon.

Heavy rain had stranded hundreds of industrial trucks at Bhaunijhora in 2018. A schoolboy even sustained head injuries when the river washed him downstream while trying to cross it.

Pasakha residents are positive that such problems would not arise now. Another two projects under the same SASEC package and ADB-funded have already been completed.

This includes a 1.3km road with a 50-metres multicellular culvert box bridge over Baunijhora stream and a gabion wall upstream. Bhutan Builders and Druk Chapchab Construction were awarded the contract jobs respectively.

An employee with one of the industries in Pasakha, Hemlal Samal, 39, said many changes have come to Pasakha.

“It is developing now,” he said, adding that without such facilities his children had missed their classes many times before.

“I used to cross them to the other side whenever possible but I wasn’t available always because of the shift duties.”

Hemlal Samal said the new bridges over Bhalujhora and Baunijhora would also help the industries, the public and other businessmen. Raw materials’ movement would be eased, he added.

ADB has funded over Nu 324M as grant for the three SASEC projects. The largest of the three packages is the construction of the gabion wall at Baunijhora worth Nu 132M.

Rajesh Rai | Pasakha