Connectivity: Lunana in Gasa, Soe and Lingzhi in Thimphu and Geling in Chukha are likely to remain without road connectivity even by the end of the current Five-Year-Plan. None of these four gewogs currently have road connectivity.

“These four gewogs will remain without road even by the end of the 11th Plan,” a senior official of the Department of Roads said.

Geling is a three-hour uphill walk from the Chukha hydropower plant dam site across the Wangchhu. The gewog is located opposite to Bunakha.

But if things go as planned, Geling is likely to get a road until its gewog centre at Chanachen by the end of the current Plan. Lunana would also get road connectivity until Jazophu if the on-going construction works should progress without hindrances.

Geling Gup Phub Dorji said DoR has already completed a survey till Geling Lhakhang from Bunakha.

“The Prime Minister during the recent mid-term review has told us of allocating Nu 47 million (M) for construction of the gewog centre road,” Phub Dorji said.

The gewog centre road did not come through earlier because the Bunakha hydroelectric project was supposedly going to help the road construction. But as the project construction is taking time to start, the gewog started lobbying for the construction of a road with government funding.

The government has started processing the construction of the road after the gewog brought the issue to His Majesty The King during His visit to Chukha, Phub Dorji said.

The budget also covers expenses for the construction of a bridge over the Wangchhu.

“I reiterated during the mid-term review that the people couldn’t wait for the road till the start of the project,” Phub Dorji said.

While six kilometres of the road will connect the gewog centre, the remaining stretch of 12.6km will connect Geling Lhakhang to the gewog office.

“We are planning to complete the construction by the end of the Plan,” Phub Dorji said.

By the end of the plan Lunana will also be connected by a road until Jazophu which is half the way to its gewog centre. In the 12th Plan, the road is expected to reach Rikhashong, which is around a five-day walk from the nearest road head.

The road until Jazophu would cut down the eight-day walk till Lunana by three days. “When the road reaches Jazophu, it would also relieve people of the most treacherous stretch of the trail,” Lunana Gup Gembo Tshering said.

Trekking between Goentshephu and Jazophu requires travelling through muddy, leech and insect infested areas. From Jazophu, it will take only five days to Lunana. The route would be shortened further when the 38-40km road reaches Rikhashong.

While it is officially a three-day walk to Lunana from Rikhazhong, villagers can make it in a day.

People will also be spared from spending heavily on hiring ponies. A pony costs over Nu 1,200 per day. In Lunana, transportation costs more than the actual price of corrugated galvanised iron (CGI)sheets, which is Nu 50,000. Transporting enough CGI sheets to  Lunana from the nearest road head to roof a house costs Nu 200,000.

But Gembo Tshering said that the road would not go all the way to the gewog centre. “Let alone in the 11th Plan, the road will not reach the gewog centre even in the 12th Plan because of treacherous terrain and snow,” he said.

Both Soe and Lingzhi will also not get road connectivity by the end of the current Plan.

The Prime Minister during the recent mid-term review said that plans to connect Soe and Lingzhi by road have been shelved, said Soe Gup Kencho Dorji. “But Lyonchoen has assured that he is planning to visit the gewog to discuss the matter with the people.” Soe is a three-day walk from Shana in Paro.

Materials for on-going rural electrification such as conductors are transported manually from Shana to Soe. The government is planning to airlift heavy equipment like transformers.

Similarly, Lingzhi Gup Wangdi said that the construction of a road isn’t in the Plan.

“Even the government has no plan of a road to Lingzhi,” Wangdi said, adding it is important to provide enough annual budget to improve mule tracks and suspension bridges in absence of the road.

However, the absence of road is expected to encourage rural-urban migration. “If basic amenities such as electricity and roads aren’t provided in the villages, people would migrate to urban areas in future,” Kencho Dorji said.

Tempa Wangdi