While on the one hand, the government is talking about building a top-quality East-West highway that will make Bhutanese proud, some gewog connectivity roads are disintegrating even before blacktopping work is completed.
The Prime Minister himself has now twice in the recent past conducted inspections of the East-West highway. The thickness of the blacktop was measured and found to even exceed the specifications required. The expectation is for the highway, once completed, to last many years.
But some of our gewog connectivity roads, which are currently being blacktopped, are forming ruts and potholes even before the contractor gets to the end of the road.
The most recent case in point is the Tang gewog connectivity road.
The reasoning is that heavy vehicles shouldn’t be using these roads, which means the blacktop is designed to be thick enough only to hold medium- and small-sized vehicles.
But as some pointed out, residents of Tang also depend on heavy vehicles to transport their cash crops.
There is no argument against the intention of blacktopping all the gewog connectivity roads. It has been pledged and will be carried out. There will be benefits such as decrease in fuel usage and for those who hire vehicles, reduction in fares. We will also be spared bumpy rides when we travel to our villages.
But some of the roads are disintegrating soon after being completed. Some even before being completed. This all means extra costs.
There is a need for either more inspections or for the specifications to be adapted to local conditions.
If there is heavy-vehicle traffic in a gewog, or the possibility of such traffic given a future project, then the road standard could be upgraded. Investing big now may mean saving later.
We want to be proud of all our roads.
The problem is that the government is not keeping as much a close eye on the gewog blacktopping as it is on the East-West highway. Contractors have even been told that if they don’t meet the required quality, they will not be eligible for future government contracts.
Why can’t we do the same with the gewog connectivity roads?