If all goes as planned, the Department of Roads expects to connect and open to traffic the much-awaited Gyalpozhing-Nganglam highway by November 11 this year.

Project engineer Jigme Tenzin who is based at the Nganglam site, said that although November 11 is the target, it looks difficult given the unseen problems the project officials face everyday at the site.

Monsoon rains, absconding labourers, and frequent machine breakdown are hampering the work progress.

“One of the expatriate labourers died after he was hit by a boulder in April. Since then, many are reluctant to work at the site,” Jigme Tenzin said. “We had to manage with local labourers, which is not very easy to find.”

Jigme Tenzin added that about 14 Bhutanese labourers are working at the site. The project is expected to bring eight more expatriate labourers soon.

The project has completed the first formation cutting of the highway from Nganglam side, including the 700-metre stretch near the Kuri-Gongri confluence. The DoR in November 2014 took up the work after the contractor was terminated for breaching the contract.

From Mongar side, the project has completed constructing the road until the confluence. About 24km road has already been blacktopped.

The two roads, 43.4km from Nganglam and 33.42km from Gyalpozhing, will meet at the Kuri-Gongri confluence. A temporary bailey bridge with a capacity of 18-24MT would be constructed over Kuri-Gongri to join the roads.

Jigme Tenzin said work on the back cutting is in full swing to reduce the road’s high gradient level.

“Although the formation cutting is completed, we might require to cut another 100-metre to relocate the site of the bridge,” he said. “This is because the present location has high gradient level, which in the future could hamper heavy vehicles to ply on.”

He added that a survey has already been completed to see if the project will require changing the bridge’s location.

Work to construct the national highway began in 2006 from both the sides with an initial estimated budget of Nu. 1.02 billion. The Government of India is funding the work under Project Tied Assistance.

The highway will have 12 bridges, each varying from 40m to 50m in length. The construction of the double-lane highway has been on for the last eight years.

Yangchen C Rinzin