Connectivity: Heavy rain that hit the southern belt of the country last month severed and damaged the Dungna gewog connectivity road in Chukha.
A month later, vehicles are still not able to use the road. As a result, people of the five cut-off gewogs have been risking their lives transporting essentials on their backs, and over treacherous paths.
The severed road not only links Dungna and Metedkha gewogs; it also connects many villages in other gewogs such as Phuentsholing, Geling, and Lokchina in Chukha.
It is at the three kilometre point towards Dungna and Metedka from Ganglakha, that the blacktopped road has been washed away at several points.
A narrow path has been carved into the hill in these areas and the path is only wide enough for one person at a time. Any fall would either be fatal or result in a severe injury.
But with no options, people are transporting food items using the path. Some carry bags of rice even after 7pm in the evening when it is already dark.
Even women with toddlers are seen crossing the 3km stretch using their mobile phone torches. Some of these women even carry sacks of rice on their backs.
It takes about 50 minutes to walk through the area, any load. It can take almost two hours with a 25kg bag of rice on the back.
From edible oil to rice, vehicle fuel, and other household commodities, everything is carried along this 3km narrow trail.
Vehicles from Phuentsholing drop people and goods until the affected area on the Ganglakha side. From there the goods are then carried along the trail to the other end, towards Dungna.
Vehicles that have been stuck on the other side since the road portions were washed away, then ferry people and goods to Dungna and beyond. With the road severed, vehicles use the longer Chongeykha farm road that stretches the journey by more than two hours.
Vehicle charges have also increased due to the situation. Passengers are charged Nu 300, and a 25kg bag of rice would cost Nu 100 to transport.
“There has been no gas at home for about a month,” Tek Bahadur Pradhan, who was carrying a full LPG cylinder to Dungna, said. “We have been using electricity and firewood to cook.”
From Ganglakha, Dungna is about 50km and Metedkha another 15km from Dungna.
On August 25, rations such as edible oil, rice, and cheese were being carried to the lower secondary school in Dungna. Dawa Tshering was transporting the items along with the school’s mess in-charge, Sangpo.
Dawa Tshering, who got the contract to carry the goods for the school, said the road has always been plagued by such blocks. “The road is dangerous.”
Dawa Tshering said that building a safer road for people to walk on must be the immediate priority.
Mess in-charge, Sangpo, said that the school has managed so far and has not been facing any problems. Two tonnes of rations was transported to the school since August 25.
Besides the villages of the five gewogs, Chongeykha resident Tshewang Tashi said the severed road would affect a village in Paro as well. Naja gewog in Paro is connected by the road through Metedkha.
“There are also four schools and three Basic Health Units this road connects,” he said, adding that if the road is not opened soon, there could be more serious problems.
A shopkeeper in Dophulhaka, Jan Kumari Rai, 55, never expected being cut off for so long. She has not been able to re-stock her shop which is almost empty today. A few have even closed their shops with no goods to sell.
More than 50 bolero pickup trucks are also stuck. An ambulance is also stranded on the road unable to get to the Phuentsholing-Thimphu highway.
The roadblock also affected the Chongeykha-Dophulhaka chiwog zomdu that was recently conducted. Not many turned up to vote as the road between Kungkha and Dophulhaka is washed away at several points.
“I walked for an hour and a half to vote,” Deoraj Rai, a Kungkha resident said during the Chongeykha-Dophulhaka chiwog zomdu vote. “Many did not come due to the road condition.”
The roads department has deployed excavators but reconnecting the road is expected to take a long time.
Rajesh Rai | Chongeykha