Younten Tshedup 

More than seven months after the newly constructed Wangchhu bridge along the Damchhu-Haa bypass collapsed, work to build a new bridge over the river will begin on October 7.

A 60-metre bailey bridge will replace the 204-metre-long reinforced cement concrete (RCC) bridge, which was close to inauguration when it completely collapsed on February 9.

Works and Human Settlement Minister, Dorji Tshering said that the new bridge will be constructed approximately 800 metres downstream from the site of the broken bridge. “The bailey bridge will be located at an area where the river is narrower, and it will be lower in height, compared to the previous bridge.”

Lyonpo said that access roads, measuring about a kilometre each and connecting the bridge to the highway from either side of the river, will be constructed first. “Project Dantak will implement the project.”

Lyonpo said that while the construction of the bridge itself would not take long, construction of the access roads could take some time.

He said that several uncertain geological conditions in the area could play a major factor in the completion of the project. 

“For now, we cannot say how long the entire project will take but we are assured that Project Dantak will deliver the project within the shortest possible time.”

Construction of the 204m bridge along the 12km Damchu-Haa link road started in January 2017. The bridge that was supposed to join Chuzom-Haa road at Wanakha, Paro was nearing completion when it collapsed earlier this year, killing nine Indian labourers.

Lyonpo Dorji Tshering said that a team from the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) from India had recently completed its investigation into the collapse. However, he said that investigation reports have not been shared either with Project Dantak in Thimphu, nor the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement.

Lyonpo said that it would be presumptive to speculate about the cause of the collapse without looking through the reports first. Technically, the minister said that the height and length of the bridge should not have been an issue with the initial bridge. “We have seen longer and higher bridges before.”

Had the new bridge been completed, it could have reduced the travel distance between Haa and Phuentsholing by about 29km. Lyonpo said that once the new bridge is completed, the benefit for the public will be the same.

Kuensel could not contact Project Dantak officials for comment.

Edited by Tshering Palden