Lhakpa Quendren

Panbang – After completing the base course for the newly constructed 800-meter Tungkudenpa bypass in Panbang, Zhemgang, the contractor abandoned the project without completing the blacktopping work. 

According to sources, the contractor failed to repay Nu 4.2 million ordered by the Zhemgang dzongkhag court. The reimbursement was considering the compromised work quality and the contractor’s inability to complete the construction.

Residents in the area who initially supported the project for its potential benefits to the community are now expressing disappointment and regret as the road remains incomplete.

Yeshi Wangchuk, a driver in the area, said that the project has failed to deliver the expected benefits. “The work for bypass construction started about four years ago, and it has not yielded any benefits for the community.”

“Although the bypass reduces the travel time by just a few minutes, it will reduce the risks associated with heavy vehicles on the highway,” he said.

Tashi Gyelmo, a 63-year-old resident, said that the construction affected their lands. “I received a land replacement for the land affected by the highway construction, but they denied the compensation for the land affected by the bypass construction, citing ineligibility.”

“The project is nearly finished, and there is a need to expedite the blacktopping process,” she said. “It would be beneficial if heavy vehicles were rerouted through the bypass.”

As the community grapples with the side-effects of the incomplete project, residents call for the relevant agencies to intervene and hold the contractor accountable. They said that the whereabouts of the contractor are still unknown.

Another resident, Bumpa, 62, said there needs to be more accountability for the failure of the project. “If the contractor fails to meet the scheduled deadline, the government should hold them accountable.”

“We don’t know who is at fault for this failure and we have no knowledge about what is happening with the project,” he added.

According to Bumpa, three tipper loads of bitumen were transported to Zhemgang after being stored in Panbang for some time. “We are wondering about the alternatives the government may implement to complete this project.”

According to the residents, the bypass was planned to be the new highway and was awarded in 2021, with completion scheduled for 2022, following a survey conducted in 2019.

The Panbang Drungkhag administration said that the completion of the bypass will be incorporated into the 13th Plan.