Phub Dem  | Paro

Drukgyal dzong reconstruction resumed last Wednesday after remaining shut for 16 days following the nationwide lockdown declared on August 11.

Today, construction is in full swing.

Although the lockdown has hampered work, project manager Namgay Dorji said that the construction progress was still two months ahead of schedule.

The reconstruction project that began in 2016 had been three months ahead of schedule if it wasn’t for the lockdown. Currently, the dzong reconstruction is in the fifth phase.

Utse, which is the main part of the dzong, was inaugurated in 2017 coinciding with the first birthday of the HRH The Gyalsey.

Out of five three-story structure in the fifth phase, one-story is already completed.

While the lockdown did not hamper the completion date, he said that it incurred a substantial financial loss to the government.

For 16 days, there was no work done but the project had to pay the wages. Approximately the shutdown bore a financial burden of Nu 1.2 million (M).

Covid-19 protocol

The camp and construction site falls in a self-containment zone out of which moving in and out is restricted.

The workers, according to the project manager, are under strict surveillance, and they are restricted to visit even the nearest shops. “They have no contact with the locals and outsiders.”   

The project already stored necessities at the camp and distributes it to the workers to minimize physical contact with outsiders.

As the work involves all kinds of workers, Namgay Dorji said that it was impossible to maintain physical distancing and the focus was on handwashing and other health protocols. “We are considering ourselves as a big family trying to mitigate possible transmission from outside.”

The lockdown began to take its toll on the mental and physical health of the workers. Some labourers were of the view that it was the right decision to resume the work, as they were restless, and it posed health risks.

One of the workers at the site, Dorji said that as a regular worker, it was as if something was missing when he stayed home jobless. “If the lockdown extends more than a month, I would have returned to my village, as it was suffocating without work.”

Considering this lockdown as an opportune time for workers to either quit or reduce the consumption of tobacco and alcohol, the project committee, in consultation with the workers decided not to distribute tobacco.

The project manager said there was no major challenge as the project management had stored enough materials for a month. “If the lockdown prolongs access to materials could have been a problem.”

In the meantime, the daily wage of the workers was increased. Initially, the daily wage of skilled workers ranges between Nu 576 and Nu 315, including 50 percent zorig chusum allowance. The unskilled workers are paid Nu 215 according to the minimum wage for the national workforce.

The skilled workers saw a 30 percent increment on the zorig chusum allowance. For instance, the daily wage of a grade one worker rose from Nu 486 to Nu 583.

The cabinet approved a new 30 percent allowance for the unskilled labourers. The revised pay for the unskilled labourers is Nu 280 per day.

Project Manager Namgay Dorji said that the increment was essential to retain the experienced workers and to meet the increasing price of the commodities.

He said that as the daily wage increment has to be managed from the approved budget of Nu 500M, the project has to be completed five months early.

Initially, the project was scheduled to be completed by December 2022. However, Namgay Dorji said that the work might prolong until the end of 2022 but within the budget.

“As of today, more than 65 percent of the project is completed within 40 percent of the expenditure.”

The project has spent Nu 238.2M.