The question on why the government has stopped the construction of the southern east-west highway has been repeatedly asked since the first session of the National Assembly, works and human settlement minister, Dorji Choden said at the national assembly’s question hour session yesterday.

The minister was responding to Nganglam MP, Choida Jamtsho’s question on why the construction of the road was stopped and if there is any provision for reviving it in the 12th Plan.

MP Choida Jamtsho said cases of harassment and mob attacks following incidents involving Bhutanese vehicles are regularly reported.

“Besides causing so much inconvenience and safety risks, we have no option but to travel through neighbouring states of India,” he said. “The only permanent solution will be to build our own southern highway linking Samtse in the west to Jomotsangkha in the east.”

Lyonpo Dorji Choden said the construction of the southern highway was temporarily stopped due to security reasons. The work would be continued in the 12th Plan.

She said the people have understood why the construction of the road was stopped as no one has asked the minister why the construction of the road from Lhamoizingkha to Sarpang and Nganglam to Dewathang was stopped.

“They just conveyed that the road is important and when work to build them would start,” Lyonpo said. 

Considering the importance of the road to the people, Lyonpo said that the government has full support to construct the highway.

The construction of the road from Lhamoizingkha to Sarpang was planned and a study was also conducted. Similarly, the ministry has done a feasibility study of the road from Nganglam to Dewathang and discussed with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) since ADB will be supporting the construction.

“All the works were completed and the work was about to be contracted out but it has to be stopped because of the security situation,” Lyonpo said.

There is a grave security concern in these areas, Lyonpo added. “The contractors are not Bhutanese and if we contract out the work and if any problem arises then there are chances of having problems among the governments.” 

The minister acknowledged that there are inconveniences for commuters travelling through the neighbouring states of India. Despite the security concern, Lyonpo said that if a road is built within the country, then it is shifting from one inconvenience to another. “It is not that we don’t support the construction of the road.”

Lyonpo said the government did not completely stop the construction. The government started the construction of the road from Samrang to Jomotsangkha without availing loan, using domestic resources and local contractors. The existing 10km road from Jomotsangkha was widened and repaired. “In addition to that, we have built 20kms more.”

From Samrang, the government targeted to build 10 kms road, of which 8km was built using domestic resources and local contractors. “Here, there is serious security concerns. Not just keeping it to the Department of Roads, we discussed with the Drungkhag and requested it to provide security to the workers including the surveyors.”

Lyonpo said the government did not leave the road from Nganglam to Dewathang.  From Nganglam to Choekhorling, there is a gewog centre road of about 24kms. From Choekhorling towards Dewathang until Khalatsho, the work to construct 19kms road has started.  

“The work is about to complete. From here towards Dewathang to Rishore, it is estimated to be about 15km. If we can construct this in the 12th Plan then we can connect Dewathang to Nganglam,” Lyonpo said. 

She said the road from Jomotsangkha to Samdrupjongkhar is important because people in three gewogs in Jomotsangkha has no other road than to travel through India. The other places have alternative roads to travel outside.

Dechen Tshomo