Lhakpa Quendren

Zhemgang—After about 12 years of waiting, the construction of the four-kilometer Tingtibi-Phophel (Goling bypass) primary national highway (PNH) in Zhemgang is finally nearing completion.

This road construction, scheduled to be completed on March 24 this year, resumed on April 24 last year. It missed the deadline but is now in the final stage of asphalt paving.

Once completed, the bypass will reduce the distance to Goling and nearby villages in Trong, Nangkor, and Bardo gewogs. The bypass will also benefit Lower Zhemgang, as well as commuters using the Tingtibi-Panbang highway, including those from the six eastern districts.

The bypass will shorten the distance between Tingtibi and Goling to 11 kilometers from the current 19 kilometers along the old route. This will benefit the 68 households in Goling village and the 11 households in Zhobling.

Nangkhor gewog’s Goling-Zhobling Tshogpa, Tashi Dorji, said that the bypass is very convenient. “It will facilitate easier travel to Gelephu and Thimphu, while also reducing travel-related expenses such as fuel consumption for vehicles.”

“Over the last decade, we have raised this issue with the Gup several times and voiced the concerns of the villagers,” he added.

Former Trong Gup Dorji Wangchuk from Tshanglajong expressed excitement about the bypass. “There is a high risk of vehicle accidents on the current road, as it struggles to accommodate even a single truck ferrying cement.”

“The distance to Tingtibi via Yabilaptsa is seven kilometers but with the bypass, it will only require about five minutes,” he said, adding that the route via Yabilaptsa presents risks to travellers due to its steep and narrow paths, as well as the potential hazard of falling boulders.

However, according to residents, the project fell short of public expectations due to contractor failure, subsequently affecting the villagers. They argue that progress has been impeded by change in plans every time the government changed.

The Department of Surface Transport suspended the contract due to a breach of the contract’s fundamentals after awarding a contract for blacktopping and crash barrier installation in 2015, despite the road formation cutting being carried out in 2012.

The previous government dropped the plan to improve and blacktop the bypass in the 12th Plan due to the Covid-19 pandemic and reprioritization of budgetary resources. However, funding has been allocated towards the end of the plan.

Nu 68 million was awarded for the formation-cutting works with support from the Asian Development Bank, and an additional Nu 64.54 million was awarded for the improvement and blacktopping.

The bypass was planned to facilitate the transportation of heavy machinery and materials for the then-planned Chamkharchu Hydro Power Project.