Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupcholing

Commuters plying along the 49 kilometres Dewathang-Samdrupcholing highway in Samdrupjongkhar are not happy with the progress of blacktopping work.

They claim that the highway has become worse.

Commuters said that the blacktopping work was supposed to complete in December this year, but the work has not yet started at some stretches.

A commuter said it would be difficult for the contractors to complete in December.

A resident of Samdrupcholing, Jigme, said they were happy when they heard the highway would be widened and blacktopped by December this year because the road was in dire need of maintenance.

He said although the Department of the road (DoR) had awarded the widening and blacktopping works to contractors, the road is becoming worse than a farm road now. “We are not happy with the work progress as some contractors have not yet started the work.”

Another resident, Loknath, said there are potholes every few metres of the stretch, which makes driving challenging even for heavy vehicles along the highway. “It is also dangerous to ply along the highway in monsoon.”

He said the base course work from Dewathang towards Samdrupcholing and Samdrupcholing towards Samrang has started, but DoR officials should ask the contractors who have not started the work because the deadline is approaching.

Road users also claim that they don’t see any progress and it takes more than four hours to reach Samdrupcholing due to the bad road condition.

They said that if the road is good, the distance is about one and half hour drive.

They said it is challenging for light vehicles because it gets damaged. “Without skilled mechanics in the workshops, it is difficult. The spare parts are also expensive,” a commuter, Bhim Kumar, said. 

DoR’s chief engineer in Samdrupjongkhar, Kinzang Wangchuk, said the department had awarded the work in four packages in November last year, adding that the first package has 18km, 12km for the second package, and the third and fourth packages have six kilometres each.

He said contractors could not start the work due to the lockdown and work was delayed as they could not mobilise materials. “Heavy monsoon also affected the work.”

He also said contractors could not bring labourers. “Overloaded trucks also damage the road.”

Kinzang Wangchuk said that although the highway improvement work is supposed to be completed in December, the regional DoR has provided a three-month time extension because of the lockdowns. “We expect the contractors to complete the work on time.”

The budget for the project is about Nu 376M.

Edited by Tashi Dema