Thinley Namgay  

The recently completed 1.6-kilometre (km) cement concrete road between Langchenphu Gewog office and Jomotsangkha town in Samdrupjongkhar is poised to establish an alternative model for road construction in the dzongkhag.    

The community opted for a concrete road, instead of the regular blacktopped road, as it was found to be more durable, cheaper, and environmentally friendly. 

When the blacktopped gewog-centre road in Langchenphu Gewog failed to last even five years, developing potholes and cracking up, the frustrated gup of the gewog, Guman Singh Gaylal, sought approval from both the Jomotsangkha Dungkhag Administration and the Samdrupjongkhar Dzongkhag Administration, to replace it with a concrete road after a thorough comparison of factors such as durability, expenditure, and environmental friendliness between two road development models.  

The construction of this new road with a 4 metres width and 8 inches thick, costing Nu 5 million (M), involved the collaborative efforts of machinery and local residents and was completed in a span of 40 days.

The project engineer, Tshering Dorji of Jomotsangkha Dungkhag, said the concrete road will endure a minimum of 10 to 15 years. Local materials, including cement, gravel, and sand, were used in its construction. 

Concrete roads offer 50 percent higher durability compared to bitumen-surfaced roads, according to officials. Additionally, the expenditure for a 1.6 km blacktopped road would surpass that of a 1.6km cement concrete road. 

Besides, blacktopping of road involved a complex process – the construction of the road, maintenance of granular sub-base, and the application of the base course before blacktopping. This process was labor-intensive and requires substantial labor resources. The bitumen used in the blacktopping of the road had to be imported and cost about Nu 17,000 a barrel. Bitumen had been shown to have mutagenic and carcinogenic properties, emitting harmful fumes and polluting the atmosphere, water, and soil. 

Concrete road construction was less labor-intensive and involves a simpler process, requiring workers to perform ground labeling and dispense aggregates of sand, gravel, and cement. Concrete roads was also environmentally friendly as they did not require bitumen.

“The Dungkhag built a 300-metre concrete road at Serthi Gewog on a moist area on trial and it was successful,” said Tshering Dorji. 

Residents of Langchenphu welcomed the concrete road and said it was a wise investment. 

While the concept of concrete roads is not new in the country, the majority of dzongkhags are yet to adopt this alternative method.