Central government and LG disagree on Merak road

Trashigang  dzongdag waits for public consensus 

MB Subba 

A midst the controversy surrounding the Merak gewog centre (GC) road, both the Radhi-Sakteng MP and the Bartsham-Shongphu MP have been lobbying with the Prime Minister to blacktop the GC road via their own constituency.

The road from Merak gewog centre divides into two at Shetaymay to connect with the highway. One goes via Chaling, which falls in the Bartsham-Shongphu constituency and the other via Khardung in Radhi Sakteng constituency.

The Ministry of Works and Human Settlement (MoWHS) on the instruction of the prime minister on June 19 wrote to the Trashigang dzongdag to implement the blacktopping work via Khardung. The decision of the Trashigang Dzongkhag Tshogdu (DT), however, was to blacktop the road that goes Chaling.

Radhi Sakteng MP Dorji Tshering, who is also the works and human settlement minister, in a meeting with the prime minister is said to have told that the actual Merak GC road is the one that goes via Khardung and the blacktopping should be done accordingly.

In a separate meeting with the prime minister, Bartsham Shongphu MP Passang Dorji (PhD), however, recently insisted that the work should be carried out as per the DT’s resolution.

Lyonchhen Dr Lotay Tshering in an interview with Kuensel yesterday said that both the MPs as elected members were right. “It is only correct for the two MPs to try to get the road in their own constituency,” said Lyonchhen.

However, the issue has become more about whether the central government can intervene and overturn a DT decision.

In response to the directive of the MoWHS, the Trashigang DT chairperson Kinzang Dorji on July 2 wrote to the dzongdag, asking the latter to uphold the DT decision and implement the blacktopping work via Chaling.

The DT chairperson justified the DT’s resolution, stating that the decision would benefit about 300 households. The road via Khardung is said to benefit only 80 households.

The government, however, claims that the blacktopping can be carried out within the allotted budget of Nu 147 million (M) if the road via Khardung is blacktopped.

The Trashigang dzongdag, Chekey Gyeltshen, said that the DT resolution remained disputed. “We are asking the public to come up with a consensus on the issue,” he said.

The dzongkhag administration, he said, had already tendered out the work in the non-disputed stretch (from Merak gewog centre to Shetaymay) while a consensus is being sought on the disputed part.

“I’m sure that a solution will come up by the time the work reaches Shetaymay,” the dzongdag said, adding that the dzongkhag administration would take opinions of the public.

Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said, “I’m very neutral here and we must uphold the DT’s decision as per the local government Act. At the same time, the history and the origin of the plan must also be respected.”

He said that it was in the first government’s time the Merak road was identified and the road was supposed to go via Khardung as per the initial plan.

In line with the second government’s plan to blacktop all the GC roads, the base course accordingly was done via Khardung. But the blacktopping was postponed as the people of Merak wanted to delay the blacktopping to allow the base course to be set.

However, the DT in September last year, decided that the blacktopping would be carried out on the road via Chaling, which will make the road longer by more than 21 kilometres.

After some residents of Merak complained to the government against the DT’s resolution, the prime minister asked the MoWHS to come up with a technical report on the issue. He said that the road via Khardung was considered as the GC road for more than a decade and the budget was accordingly estimated.

According to the prime minister, the road via Shongphu was still a farm road and works such as base course and drainages needed to be carried out, for which a huge budget would be required. The MoWHS suggested the blacktopping be done via Khardung in view of the cost.

He said that considering the history of the road and the financial implication, he decided to start the blacktopping work from Merak gewog centre. His rationale was that main beneficiaries should be the people of Merak and that a consensus could be found as the work would progress.

The government, he said, will have to pump in about Nu 70 million (M) more if the DT’s resolution is to be implemented now. He said that the country was facing a fiscal deficit of Nu 14 billion (B) in the current fiscal year.

The MoWHS stated that the entire road length of 21.5 kilometres via Chaling required geographic improvements, while the road via Khardung required only rectification of the base course.

MoWHS secretary Chencho Dorji has directed the dzongdag to carry out the blacktopping work from Khardung in view of the limited budget.

“In keeping with the DT resolution, which the ministry upholds, the ministry will explore possible funds in the upcoming fiscal years so that the road via Shongphu can be taken up as a separate project,” the MoWHS secretary wrote to the dzongdag.

The local government Act states that the DT is the highest decision making body in the dzongkhag and shall promote balanced socio-economic development in the gewogs and thromdes in the dzongkhag.

The Act also states that the dzongdag shall be accountable to the DT in respect of implementing the decisions taken by DT.

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