His Majesty the King inaugurated the 77kms Gyalpoizhing-Nganglam highway yesterday at Nuchhi, few kilometres away from Gyalpoizhing town.

His Majesty also granted tokha and in the evening, His Majesty granted an audience to the participants of the four-day works and human settlement conference in Mongar.

The construction of the highway started in 2006 from both sides of Nganglam and Gyalpoizhing. Works and human settlement minister Dorji Choden said that the Gyalpoizhing – Nganglam highway would have tremendous benefits to the people of six eastern dzongkhags, as the distance to Phuentsholing will be shortened by more than 220kms from Mongar.

She said the highway would connect two dzongkhags of Mongar and Pemagatshel. “There are many remote villages like Dhagsa, Yangbari, Nikubi, along the highway which will also be benefitted.”

Lyonpo said the highway would also help establish the 2,640MW Kuri-Gongri hydropower project and Bondheyma Industrial Estate in Mongar.

While the highway construction took almost 12 years to complete due to a rocky cliff and machine breakdowns, blacktopping of few kilometres of the road will be completed by the end of this month.

Tshering Construction, Jabab Construction and Rirab Construction constructed 33kms of the road until Gongrizomsa. Jabab construction and Rirab Construction faced tremendous challenges in completing the works on time as almost 90 percent of their contract alignments passed through rocky stretches. Jabab Construction lost three people and six excavators.

Rirab construction managed to complete the formation cutting works after several extensions as the company failed to retain skilled workers due to the risky working condition.

Tshering Construction and Rinson Construction constructed 44kms of the road up to Gongrizomsa. Department of Roads (DoR) also carried out a part of the formation cutting departmentally.

The first cutting from Gyalpoizhing side reached the Gongrizomsa on December 27, 2016, and was completed by the end of March 2017. The final missing link, the Bailey bridge at Gongrizomsa was completed on February 27 this year.

The government of India funded over Nu 2.5 billion for the project through project-tied assistance

Gyalpoizhing residents are happy with the road inauguration. A DCM truck owner and driver, Rinchen Wangdi, 77, said he travelled to Phuentsholing via Samdrupjongkhar, which almost took a week.

“It used to be costly to travel via Samdrupjongkhar,” he said. “It was worse during strikes.”

He said people could now reach Phuentsholing in a day. “It takes only about eight hours.”

A businesswoman in Gyalpoizhing town, Pema Yangdon, 29, said things would now become cheaper in the region.

A hotelier, Kezang Lhamo, said hoteliers and shopkeepers would reap the benefit from the highway because commuters would stop to eat.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, cabinet ministers, the Opposition Leader, National Assembly Speaker and other parliamentarians, Indian Ambassador to Bhutan and other officials also attended the inauguration. Lyonchhen also awarded certificates to project engineers, machine operators, contractors, labourers and gave semso soelra to victims of four families.

Tashi Phuntsho| | Mongar