The department of roads (DoR) is working on the modalities to handover the gewog connectivity (GC) roads to the local government (LG) following a directive from the Cabinet.

The ministry plans to return all 205 GC roads to the gewogs through the dzongkhag administrations. The modality is expected to be ready in a few days time.

The Cabinet sometime in May issued this directive after the government decided that the LG would be responsible for the construction, maintenance and operation of GC roads.

With technical support from DoR, the LG can also sub-contract the construction or maintenance of roads to the DoR.

The decision to handover the GC roads back to LG comes after six years when the former government had instructed the ministry to take over all GC roads from the dzongkhags sometime in May 2014.

Chukha was the first dzongkhag to handover the GC roads to the DoR then. All GC roads were also to be blacktopped.

Works and human settlement minister Dorji Tshering said the decision to handover the GC roads to the LG through the dzongkhag administration was because of the overall policy of the 12th Plan, which is decentralisation.

Lyonpo said that the Cabinet’s decision is to decentralise the GC roads to the respective dzongkhag administration is based on framework where 50 percent of the Nu 100 billion capital budget is allocated in the 12th Plan.

“Of the total capital budget, we have kept 50 percent for LG and 50 percent with the center,” Lyonpo said. “The maintenance of the roads, blacktopping falls under the common minimum infrastructure budget and so the LG would have to look after the roads.”

Although the ministry plans to handover all 205 GC roads, Lyonpo said it might take time to handover about eight roads since some of the activities are part of DoR’s spillover plan, while few constructions are halfway and tenders for some are terminated.

“We plan to first sort out the issue and then only handover the roads,” Lyonpo said, adding that DoR would just have to hand over the roads to the respective dzongkhags.

Meanwhile, most gups Kuensel talked to shared that it would be best if the GC roads remain with the DoR while few gups shared they were unaware that the roads would be handed back to LG.

Some gups shared that after DoR took over the roads, the gewog office was able to concentrate on other developmental activities and eased the office’s work.

“We’re not sure how wise it is that one government takes over the GC roads and then another government decides to give back the roads,” a gup said. “Our gewog office has even managed to acquire the land to construct houses for the labourers that maintain the roads. Now we don’t know what will happen to the place if the roads are returned.”

A few shared that returning the roads would entail huge expense since the gewog would need budget to maintain the GC roads, which sometimes is higher than the budget ceiling. “We may have to even forgo other developmental activities because we haven’t allocated budget for GC roads in our Plan,” a gup said.

However, some of the gups shared it would not make any difference since even today when the roads are blocked, DoR cannot maintain it immediately owing to lack of budget or machine, which is also the same with the gewog.

Yangchen C Rinzin