The roadblocks at several locations between the Gelephu – Zhemgang highway that were caused by heavy rain were cleared by late afternoon yesterday.

The highway was blocked at at-least four locations between Gelephu and Jigmechholing. A major block occurred at Ossey, 28km away from Gelephu. Falling boulders and muck blocked about 90 meters of the road.  The stretch was blocked since May 22 night and the Department of Road (DoR) began clearing it the next morning.

DoR’s site engineer Samdrup Tshering said that additional machinery that were deployed at i-slip and box cutting could not be mobilised earlier because of the block at these two locations. “We could open the road to traffic by 3.45pm,” he said.

An excavator is permanently stationed at Ossey to clear blocks at the earliest. This area remains blocked even when it doesn’t rain. It has loose soil, which keeps eroding towards the road, the site engineer said.

Box cutting near Tsachu in Shershong is one location that remains blocked throughout the monsoon. Although no major block has occurred here so far, box cutting is a critical area between Zhemgang and Gelephu.  “Road here is blocked every night but we clear it in the morning and machines are immediately available at site,” Samdrup Tshering said.

Another area that remained blocked until late afternoon yesterday was i-slip. Eroding sand and boulders filled at least 80 meters of the road making it difficult for vehicles to ply.  While the debris could not be cleared, the DoR, using an excavator made a bypass road over the eroded debris.

“It is a temporary arrangement to not halt stranded vehicles for too long,” the site engineer said. He also said that the three stretches of Ossey, box cutting and i-slip would continue to remain blocked whenever there is rainfall. It will however, be cleared as soon as possible with immediate deployment of heavy machinery.

Yesterday, the bypass road at Setitkharey also remained blocked for at least three hours.  Following heavy rainfall, water had accumulated into a pond and burst just above the road, eroding a portion of the road.

It was opened to traffic after four hume pipes were laid to drain the rainwater.

The Department of Roads cut a temporary route over the eroded debris at i-slip along the Gelephu – Zhemgang highway to let vehicles pass through the roadblock

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang