Road-widening work has not just disrupted traffic, but affected water supplies as well

DoR: With widening work stopping traffic at four places on the three highways that pass through Wangdue, commuters today either start their journey early or speed to escape a roadblock.

More than two months after the Dochula-Thimphu block was lifted, the department of roads (DoR) last week started stopping traffic above Rinchengang village on the Wangdue-Thimphu highway.

According to Choeda, a road safety and transport authority (RSTA) official based in Wangdue, the four places where traffic is closed for a certain time are below Dochula on the Thimphu-Wangdue highway; at Tekizampa and Nobdhing on the Wangdue-Trongsa highway; Wangdue Bridge to Rinchengang and Wangdue-Tsirang highway. Very recently they have lifted another block at the Punatsangchu-II project site.

The road closes five times a day between 6am and 5pm, scheduled with the time of public transport buses plying on the highways. Hundreds of vehicles ply between Thimphu and Wangdue everyday, Choeda said.

Information regarding the block has been provided on both the RSTA website and on the signboards pitched at every block.  However, most commuters and residents of Bajo and Lobesa claim that the recent roadblock above Rinchengang was sudden and didn’t come with a notification.

Some Punatsangchu workers, who stay in Lobesa, have even shifted their families to Bajo, following the roadblock.

Kelzang, an elderly resident of Wangdue, said the sluggish work progress at various locations was frustrating commuters.

Pema, a frequent traveller between Wangdue and Thimphu, said travelling has become risky because of the road widening works. “The moment traffic is opened, cars start rushing, as if competing in a race,” she said.

The road widening work also affected more than five irrigation water sources of Menchuna farmers, last year.  It has also affected the drinking water pipes of Dashidhing school above Lobesa, following which the school started getting its drinking water supply from tankers that the PHPA provided.

The College of Natural Resources in Lobesa also suffered the same problem, along with the residents of Lobesa.

“I don’t know if the widening works will result in better roads, but it has caused immense damage to the livelihood of people living along the road, water sources, irrigation channels and vehicles,” a resident Gyeltshen said. “Had there been no drupchus in the Lobesa locality, people might have to drink from Punatsangchu.”

Residents and commuters are hopeful that the contractors will accelerate their work progress, even though the roadblocks have come as a boon for local fast food vendors, who do brisk business when commuters are stranded.

“If we follow the roadblock timing, we can sell almost everything, especially in the mornings and evenings,” a vendor, Wangmo, said. “Most of us do this business to support our school-going children.”

 Dawa Gyelmo, Wangdue