Budget: Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay and the works and human settlement minister, Dorji Choden said that the government is mobilising funds to blacktop the remaining 22 gewog centre roads at 23rd meet the press last week.

“As far as budget is concerned there is no risk of not getting funds,” Lyonchoen said. “Funding is mobilised as construction progresses and nears blacktopping works,” Lyonchoen said.

Earlier, it was learnt from officials in the Department of Roads (DoR), that there was no funds to blacktop 22 gewog centre roads because neither the Small Development Project (SDP) nor Project Tied Assistance (PTA) could fund these projects.

SDP could not be used to fund these gewog centre roads because each road is estimated to cost over the project’s Nu 50 million (M) ceiling, while PTA no longer has funds.

For instance, the 63km Getena gewog centre road from Badinazam to Ketokha would cost an estimated Nu 182.7M. Similarly, the road for Menchugang-Nagor gewog centre road for Silambi in Mongar is estimated to cost Nu 179.8M while four more gewog centre roads such as Sakteng, Chhuzom in Sarpang and Lauri in Samdrupjongkhar, are going to cost over Nu 105M each.

All the 22 gewog centre roads are in the remoter areas of Dagana, Mongar, Chukha, Pemagtshel, Zhemgang and Samtse among others. Naro gewog centre road in Thimphu is also one of the 22. In total bitumen works for 22 gewog centre roads would require over Nu 1.9B.

But Lyonchoen and Lyonpo Dorji Choden said that the fund isn’t a problem for these 664km length gewog centre roads. The ministry is exploring funds through the Global Climate Fund (GCF) and UN system.

Under the GCF, the government has proposed funding for nine gewog centre roads for gewogs with higher poverty levels but with potential in agriculture.

“The ministry is pursuing quite vigorously. The concept has been approved. We should be able to submit a good proposal and hoping to get the funding,” Lyonpo Dorji Choden said. “As far as funding is concerned we are quite comfortable.”

The second window the ministry approached is the UN system under its least developed country fund. Five gewog centre roads from Trashigang and Mongar have been proposed under the UN system.

Gewog centre roads blacktopping for Merak and Sakteng, Gongdue, Silambi and Narang, which is estimated worth Nu 491.54M, will be funded by UN system funds.

“The project funding of USD 49M for Bhutan is already approved under the UN system,” Lyonpo Dorji Choden said.

Funding for remaining eight gewog centre roads are planned from overall savings from government of India (GoI) projects, in which only road project has worth Nu 7-8 billion.

“Eight gewog centre road blacktop is something we are looking to fund from overall savings from government of India funds,” Lyonpo Dorji Dorji said, adding works of 92 gewog centre roads have taken off.

“Some are completed other are almost at the advanced stage of completion.”

Lyonchon Tshering Tobgay said it is wrong to say there is no funding for 22 gewog centre roads because works had to be done on a priority basis.

When it comes to 22 gewog centre roads, it wasn’t time to mobilise funds because when the 11th Plan was started 26 gewogs had no roads. New roads had to be constructed first. Only after the roads were opened, the blacktopping had to be done.

“We need not worry about funding because we are proposing projects whenever the roads are ready for bitumen works,” Lyonchoen said.

“The only thing we should be concerned is whether the roads had settled because there are risks of losing money by blacktopping roads before it has stabilised.”

Earlier a DoR official also said even if the budgets were mobilised, it is unlikely that the blacktopping works would be complete by the end of the Plan.

“By the time the funds are secured, with less than 30 months, the 11th plan would have already come to an end,” the DoR official said.

When asked if the blacktop for these 22 gewog centre roads would be complete by the end of the Plan, Lyonpo Dorji Choden said, it shouldn’t be a worry.

“We shouldn’t be really worried about if it can’t be completed when we have undertaken huge blacktopping works,” Lyonpo Dorji Choden said.

Only 114 of the total 202 gewog centre roads would require blacktop as 87 fall along the national highways. Three gewogs such as Soe and Lingzhi in Thimphu and Lunana in Gasa wouldn’t be connected by road.

Tempa Wangdi