It has been almost a month since the Gelephu-Zhemgang highway has remained blocked on and off at Ossey, 23kms away from Gelephu.
Although the Department of Roads (DoR) has been regularly clearing the debris, mudslides block the road even before the passage is cleared.
DoR officials said the stretch is critical and it is turning out dangerous for workers as well.
Site engineer, Samdrup Tshering, said that although about 290ms of the road length is vulnerable to slide, at least 100ms is critical and remains blocked every night.
“Clearing works begin as early as 6am but we can’t open the road to traffic sooner,” he said. “There are overhanging boulders and the soil is too loose to hold them.”
He said clearing works are carried out from both sides of the block but the area has slid so much that it has almost touched the hill above. “Too much landslide has formed a gorge in the highway.”
In absence of the road, commuters transit vehicles at the block. They cross the block area on foot when there is less debris. Otherwise commuters walk from above the slide area through the forest for almost an hour to cross the block.
A regular commuter, Yeshi, 38, said that he walked an hour to cross the block yesterday.
He had to come to Gelephu for an important personal work and could not wait for the road to open for vehicles. “The path itself is critical. It is slippery and difficult to walk,” he said.
DoR officials said besides clearing the debris from time to time and opening the highway to traffic, they cannot do much.
Chief engineer in Sarpang, CB Monger, said that at the moment there is no means to cut a new road and any further cutting at the same location would be washed away. “There is a need to bypass the route. For that we’ve just completed a survey,” he said.
He also added that the area needs a thorough examination by technical experts on geology. “Until then there is no solution to the roadblock and landslide.”
Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang