Infrastructure: Japan will provide USD 2.5 million to develop capacity in construction and maintaining bridges in the country through a three-year project beginning this year.

The record of discussion for the technical cooperation project was signed between the Gross National Happiness Commission secretary Sonam Wangchuck and Japan International Cooperation Agency’s Chief Representative Koji Yamada yesterday.

Through the project equipment such as GPS technology, non-destructive testing equipment, eternal storage devises for BMS (back up), tools for safety measures and two vehicles and a bridge maintenance manual will be developed for the engineers.

Engineers involved in construction and maintenance of bridges including those from the dzongkhags will be trained. One of the main components of the project is the services of the Japanese experts.

The proposal for the project was made in 2014 to the Japan government, and the detailed planning survey on the project was signed in January this year.

Department of Roads looks after 272 bridges in the country and most them were built three decades ago. Of that, half are temporary bailey and bailey suspension bridges, which have limited loading capacity and carriageway width.

“Therefore, there is a huge task to ensure security of bridges and this assistance is timely and very important for the country,” a GNHC official said.

GNHC secretary Sonam Wangchuck said that the project would greatly help maintain the infrastructure quality and the economic development of the country.

The concrete and steel permanent bridges built earlier in 1970s and 1980s also have rendered load carrying capacity of 40-R as per Indian Road Congress specifications and limited carriage width of 4 to 4.5 metres only.

Though the lifespans of the of concrete and steel permanent bridges are usually around 80 to 100 years, the conditions of most of these bridges have deteriorated after 40 to 50 years of service due to lack of maintenance and monitoring at site, officials said.

“In view of the increasing traffic volume and freight tonnage, the safety of these bridges has become a critical issue,” the secretary said.

Tshering Palden