Residents of Sangbaykha and Gakiling gewogs say their villages have transformed after the Haa to Samtse secondary national highway reached their gewogs a year ago.

Although still under construction, villagers said they have started using the road. Both Gakiling and Sangbaykha gewog centre roads connect to the highway. The Sangbaykha gup Thinley said that the road has opened the floodgates of development and economic activities.

“There is a lot of movement of people and goods including agriculture produce,” he said. “It has also become easier to ferry the sick to the hospital in Haa.”

Numerous shops have mushroomed in the villages in the gewogs.

In Dorethasa, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay’s village, two shops are doing good business.

A shopkeeper, Chencho Dorji, who opened a small grocery and bar, said he earns at least Nu 30,000 a month. “If I have a larger capital, I could earn more,” he said.

In Sangbay Ama, another shopkeeper Yangzom has seen business pick up since the arrival of the road.

“Transportation is easier and unlike before which took four days, today we get things in few hours,” she said.

For civil servants like Passang, a teacher at Sangbaykha Primaprices of commodities have fallen threefold from Nu 3,000 to Nu 1,000 for a bag of 50kg rice.

“We can also reach for training on time,” he said. “Earlier, we would receive the letter inviting us to train when the training has already started.”

Haa planning officer, Gyeltshen who is from Nakha, Sangbaykha gewog, said the road has brought home some of the people who have earlier migrated to town.

For the farmers, transporting agriculture produce has become easier and their life has become more comfortable.

The only visible side effect is to the income of farmers who own large number of horses.

Thinley Dorji from Sangbay Ama said he could not make use of his horses since he bought a Bolero some months ago.

“The horses used to earn more than the Bolero but it was hectic,” he said. He has sold most of his horses.

Construction workers said that some of the villagers have not seen vehicles until the road’s construction. “They came to see the vehicles at work and gaze at them work for hours,” an engineer said.

Department of Roads’ (DoR) chief engineer with Thimphu division, Chador Gyeltshen, said that the 75km road between Haa and Gakiling drungkhag had an estimated budget of Nu 1.34 billion (B) in the 11th Plan of which Nu 626 million (M) has been approved so far. The department has spent Nu 414M to date.

He said that the estimated completion cost would be about Nu 800 – 850M.

The formation cutting, cross drain and granular base-course were taken up by the department, while blacktopping was awarded to five contractors. The Haa to Samtse secondary national highway connected earlier this month although it is not completed.

Chador Gyeltshen said the five senior engineers assisted by four junior engineers were deployed to execute the works by the department after contractors could not construct the road.

He said the road would be completed with blacktop on schedule by June next year. “We’re only left with blacktopping now.”

Chief engineer of Phuentsholing region, which is constructing the remaining part of the highway, Dorji Wangdi, said that the road was meant to be a gewog connectivity road under small development project funding.

“The government has approved Nu 40M for formation cutting and gabion walls of a 20km stretch,” he said. “The rest of the work will be carried out in the next Plan.”

The farmers in the two gewogs depend mainly on cardamom cultivation and livestock.

Of the 158km national highway, only 75 (that is between Haa and Gakiling) will be complete in the 11th Plan.

Tshering Palden | Sangbaykha