Environment clearance halts Shingkhar-Gorgan highway construction

Works and Human Settlement minister, Dorji Choden, said it was still uncertain when the construction of Shingkhar-Gorgan highway would begin because the environment clearance certificate for the road is still on hold.

Lyonpo also said that the ministry would have to prepare the detailed Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) following directives from the National Environment Commission (NEC).

She said that according to the EIA, department of forest and park services issued the road passes though the core area, but NEC regulations don’t allow construction. The report submitted by Ugyen Wangchuk Institute for conservation and environment, showed that the road passes through multi-use zone and not through a core area.

“Otherwise, all documents and resources are ready for the construction including a budget of Nu 465 million that was approved from the total estimated Nu 776 million,” Lyonpo Dorji Choden said. “The review took time including other works and NEC wrote that the EIA needs to be reviewed again to acquire the environment clearance.”

The minister was responding to Lhuntse’s National Council member Tempa Dorji who asked the minister on whether the highway would come through in the 11th Plan and what was taking time to acquire the environment clearance certificate.

Tempa Dorji said it was still not clear if there were other reasons for the delay of project and that the government should identify a definite timeline to commence the project.

“The road would benefit the country and particularly the entire eastern region, which would also boost the economy,” he said. “However, we have not seen any visible progress after the discussion in the last National Assembly session, more than a year ago.”

The 56-km road was included in the 2007-2027 road master plan and the11th Plan. The road is expected to reduce travelling distance to Trashigang by 100km from Thimphu.

Lyonpo Dorji Choden said discussion is still on going and that the government is aware about the people’s concerns. But she said there are various procedures they need to follow and complete. “We’re trying to clarify the report and we hope to start the construction during the government tenure itself.”

On whether the government could start the work from an area that does not fall under the core area, Lyonpo said that this was not allowed as per the NEC regulations.

Trongsa NC member Tharchen said it was appears that the government was neglecting the project because the Prime Minister is NEC’s chairperson and the agriculture minister, the vice chairperson. He said they would still have discretionary power to push the project. “But this is not happe

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