Dzongkhalum block cleared

After two months of being blocked, vehicle traffic has resumed through the area 

Connectivity: The Zhemgang–Trongsa highway that was blocked for more than two months was finally cleared yesterday afternoon.

Vehicles were allowed to pass through the affected stretch by 4pm yesterday.

The landslide in the area has been cleared and the gorge filled with boulders and rocks, allowing vehicles to cross over the stretch without having to use a bridge.

The road at Dzongkhalum was blocked on July 5. Falling boulders and trees also destroyed a newly constructed bridge in the area on July 24.

Trongsa Dzongdag Sonam Rinchen, who visited the site yesterday to inspect the road’s condition before allowing vehicle traffic to pass, said the road is now open for all kinds of vehicle traffic.

However, there are still risks. “There is a danger of falling rocks and commuters are cautioned to be careful while driving through,” he said. The dzongdag added it could also be risky when it rains and there is fog in the area.

An opening and closing timing for vehicles will be enforced. The road will be opened from 8am till 6pm.

The dzongdag said that the Mangdechhu Hydroelectric Project Authority (MHPA) head-race tunnel, which was being used as a bypass route, will be closed to traffic from today. “We might have to request for the tunnel again if there is any major problem,” he said. However, the tunnel will be kept open to traffic on poll day.

The Department of Roads and Bhutan Engineering Company pvt ltd (BECPL) took up the responsibility of filling up the gorge. The contractors working for MHPA: Jay Pee Associates pvt ltd and Gammon India also contributed boulders.

The dzongdag said that BECPL has been asked to continue maintaining the road. Workers are currently constructing a gabion or retention wall beneath the destroyed bridge so that the filled-in section of the gorge will not slide.

Workers at the site said it is risky working near the bridge as they cannot see falling boulders until it has already dropped off the cliff above.

During a site visit on September 10, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay had instructed that the block be cleared at the earliest. A deadline of September 22 was placed.

An election coordination meeting, conducted before Lyonchoen’s visit, had also agreed to have the road cleared by September 20.

Stakeholder officials, in an earlier interview, said that the construction of a permanent bridge over the gorge would also be carried out simultaneously.

MHPA’s managing director, AK Mishra, had earlier said that the design of a bridge was nearly complete, and that it would be in place by December this year.

Nima Wangdi | Trongsa

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