Choki Wangmo | Dagana

Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji and the Ambassador of Netherlands to Bhutan Marten Van den Berg inaugurated the Dagapela-Dalbari secondary national highway yesterday.

The construction of the 80.58km road, supported by the Facility for Infrastructure Development (“ORIO”) of the Netherlands, began in 2014.

The highway establishes a new north-south road corridor by linking the existing Sunkosh- Dagana road in the North to Lhamoizingkha-Kerabari road in the South.

In the past, the commuters travelling to Lhamoidzingkha or Phuentsholing from Dagana had to travel about 500km via Thimphu-Phuntsholing highway. The new highway has now reduced the travel time to two hours between Dagana and Lhamoidzingkha.

The road will benefit 523 households in Tsendegang, Gozhi, Gesarling, Dorona, and Karmaling gewogs. Residents of Tsirang, Sarpang, Chhukha, Wangdue, and Trongsa will also be benefitted by the infrastructure.

The construction of SNH started in 2014

According to the press release from the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement, the new highway will help reduce poverty in the region while increasing social welfare through enhanced economic development. “It would improve access to production inputs and markets in the district and shorten travel time and reduce transportation cost.”

As Lhamoidzingkha shares a border with India, people expect that once border talks are initiated between India and Bhutan, it would improve trade and serve as a tourist entry and exit point. Currently, producers and exporters from the drungkhag have to transport their goods through Gelephu or Phuentsholing.  

Lyonpo said: “Dagana has many pilgrimage sites and this road would help boost tourism in the region. This road is a key to the dzongkhag’s development.

“Once the border opens from Lhamoidzingkha, the economic prospects would also improve. We are currently in talks with the Government of India to recognise this place as an entry and exit point.”

Marten Van den Berg said that infrastructure plays a crucial role in development and prosperity.

The project, supposed to be completed by 2017, faced hiccups and several delays. The contracts for packages B and C were terminated in January 2015. These two contract packages were re-packaged into four packages and re-tendered. Contracts were re-awarded in 2017.

Earlier, the construction was divided into three packages.

Director general of the Department of Roads (DoR), Tenzin, said: “The project was delayed for two years due to issues in project coordination.”

Rugged terrain, deep gorges, erratic monsoon, and the pandemic also caused the delays, he added.

The 1.5 billion project was implemented by the  DoR with 50 percent co-financing from the Netherlands.