Road: Employees of Rirab Construction Company and Department of Roads (DoR) have been braving numerous challenges on the way to complete the construction of the much awaited 75-kilometre (km) Gyalpoizhing-Nanglam highway.

The employees have been working under precarious conditions despite the dangers. Now only over an estimated 500 metres (m) is left for the road from Gyalpoizhing and Nanglam to meet at the Kuri-Gongri confluence where the highway will be connected with a bailey bridge.

“When the bailey bridge over the Kuri-Gongri confluence is ready, small vehicles should be able to use the road by early 2017,” DoR design division chief engineer, Lungten Jamtsho said.

The highway is being constructed from Gyalpoizhing in Monagr and Nanglam in Pemagatshel. The two take-off points will meet at the Kungri-Gongri confluence.

But as of now both DoR and Rirab Construction Company have been stuck for over a year on an inverted cliff. Fragile rock formation, rainfall, machinery breakdowns and casualties from slides and accidents are impeding the work progress.

Engineers try to measure the length of the road ahead with the help of an excavator bucket (Photo courtesy: DOR)

Engineers try to measure the length of the road ahead with the help of an excavator bucket (Photo courtesy: DOR)

“The team braving the construction of the road through the inverted rock cliff has reached the most difficult part of the highway,” DoR project engineer in Nanglam, Thinley Tenzin said.

It is here the workers have been braving to work where rock formations are fragile and the slides could surprise the workers at anytime.

“The situation is so delicate that there is slide every now and then even when there is no rainfall,” Lungten Jamtsho said.

Working under such situations has taken six excavator operators’ lives so far. Bodies of the three operators couldn’t even be retrieved. Two excavator machines remain in the river below.

“Even just recently we barely escaped being buried when the rock overhead gave in,” Thinley Tenzin said.

Former DoR project engineer for the Gyalpoizhing site, Ugyen Dorji said getting machineries especially excavators and labour have been becoming increasingly challenging.

“None of the hiring units wants to give their machineries away because of vulnerability to accidents,” Ugyen Dorji said, adding getting labourers also has become difficult with reports of frequent accidents.

Continuous roadblocks hinder the transpiration of fuel and materials to the sites.

Currently, the base course and blacktopping on 62.5km of the total length of over 75km has been completed. From Gyalpoizhing, around 24km of the total estimated length of 32km has been blacktopped while from Nanglam, over 38km of the total estimated length of 43.3km has been done.

“Only 500m are left for the road ends to meet at the Kuri-Gongri confluence,” Lungten Jamtsho said.

From Nanglam around 200m is left to reach the Kuri-Gongri confluence while an estimated 300m is expected to reach the road end from Gyalpoizhing to the confluence.

But despite numerous constraints DoR and Rirab are planning to complete the highway before the project plan of June 2017.

“The road is on the verge of completion now,” Lungten Jamtsho said, adding that bitumen works are expected to resume by the end of the monsoon.

Thinley Tenzin said trace cutting for over 535m of the 750m has been achieved. When DoR took over the work from the contractor in 2015, the formation cutting had reached 750m of its total estimated length of 43.3km till the confluence.

From 38km of the total 43.3km on the Nanglam stretch, the construction has bumped into an inverted steep rocky cliff where no survey could be conducted. The existing estimate of 750m on the inaccessible and rocky cliffs has been based on the toposheet. The road being constructed from the Gyalpoizhing side has also met with rocky cliffs from the 24km point.

“We are planning to complete the trace cutting to the confluence at least by June,” Thinley Tenzin said.

DoR has however completed over 800m of trace cutting already, exceeding its initial estimated length till the confluence by 50m. Yet, the road hasn’t reached the confluence.

“The length however would come down by 30 percent during the formation cutting later,” Thinley Tenzin said.

Ten of the total 12 bridges on the highway have also been completed. Sokporong Bridge, which is the 11th one, will be complete by June.

As per DoR the highway should be completed by December-end if there are no hindrances from the slides, labour shortage and machinery breakdowns. “The road however will be fully ready only by 2017,” Lungten Jamtsho said.

Tempa Wangdi


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