Infrastructure: Nine gewogs in Samtse would remain disconnected from the rest of the dzongkhag this summer if the two bridges that collapsed in the dzongkhag last year are not reconstructed.

It is also feared that students would be affected if the bridges are not repaired.

Heavy and continuous rain damaged two 80-foot bailey bridges over the Buduney river in Samtse in July last year.

Without these bridges, people coming to Samtse from the eastern part of the dzongkhag would have to route through Nagarkata in India.

People commuting to Phuentsholing from places such as Norbugang, Tashichholing, Tendruk, Norgaygang, and many other gewogs would have to take the Nagarkata route.

Although people driving to Phuentsholing from Tashichholing and Tendruk would have no problems taking the Nagarkata route, it will be a problem for people commuting to Samtse.

Norbugang gup Kinga Wangdi said that reconstruction of the bridges is important. “If the government does not reconstruct the bridges, people will have problems during the monsoon.”

He said there is no sign of reconstruction as of now.

Officials from the Department of Roads (DoR) regional office in Phuentsholing said the bridge collapse is categorised as occurring during a disaster, and that they submitted their findings to the Department of Disaster Management (DDM).

DoR chief engineer in Phuentsholing, Dorji Wangdi, said they proposed to the DDM for a multi-cell box culvert permanent bridge, which would cost around Nu 150 million (M).

“For this year, we proposed for dredging works to divert the river to its initial course,” he said. “We would start the dredging works when the budget is approved.”

DoR officials also said that the river that washed away the bridges in Buduney was supposed to flow from a different course and when the department tried to divert the river to its original course, people did not allow them, fearing landslides in the original course.

Meanwhile, the construction of the 120-foot bridge at Chumpathang has also not started.

Located between Ugyentse and Norbugang in Samtse, the bailey bridge collapsed last November when a jumbo truck with a load of 36 tonnes tried to ply on it. The bridge’s capacity was 18 tonnes.

This case is registered with the police in Samtse.

The DoR office has estimated that Nu 1.1 million (M) is needed to reconstruct the bridge. The amount is calculated only for replacing the damaged materials and launching it. Officials say some materials could be reused.

As of now, the bridge materials have been shifted to safer ground. DoR officials claim they are waiting for the truck owner who drove the overloaded truck on the bridge for an agreement. The truck owner, DoR officials said, has put up the matter to the works and human settlement ministry.

Ugyentse gup, Karna Bahadur Thakuri said that the Chumpathang bridge is very important for his gewog.

“Students will face problems during the summer if this bridge is not reconstructed now,” the gup said. “Many students have to cross this river when schools reopen.”

Rajesh Rai | Samtse