With herds of cattle occupying the Phongshing stretch of road, driving along the along the Samdrupjongkhar-Trashigang highway between Kharungla and Khaling has become challenging.

A truck driver, Thukten Tashi, 31, said he travels three to four times a week along the highway and he always sees the cattle let loose along the highway. The cattle are not tethered at night as well. “I wonder if they have owners.”

He said the highway has become messy because of cow dung. “We do not understand why the relevant officials from the gewog do not sensitise people about this practice.”

Another commuter, Sonam Jamtsho, said the cattle do not move even if they honk, which makes difficult for the drivers to give way to other cars. “There is a high chance accidents occurring if the problem is not addressed.”

Khaling Gup, Tashi Dorji, said that since the gewog administration has also concerns regarding the issue, they have been telling owners that it’s not allowed to let loose the cattle along the highway.

He said that drivers speed along the highway because the road had been widened and blacktopped. “Although we haven’t received any complaints, we agree that there are high chances of accidents occurring due to the cattle,” he said.

These cattle belong to the nomads and the people of the Khaling gewog. While there has been no reported motor vehicle accident, two cows were killed at Barshong about three months ago and another two last year.

“Since the cattle sleep in the middle of road, we are not clear whether the owners or the drivers should be held accountable,” the gup said. “I am planning to meet the nomads soon.”

He said the gewog administration is planning to sensitise people regarding the issue with help of tshogpas and chipoens. “We will draft a rules and regulation to impose fines if they still continue to keep their cattle along the highway,” he said.

Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar