Kelzang Wangchuk | Jomotshangkha

The much-awaited Jomotshangkha-Samrang highway in Samdrupjongkhar, which has been closed to traffic since June of this year, is expected to open to traffic by the second week of this month.

The formation cutting of the 58-kilometre highway was completed in February of this year.

The Department of Road (DoR) has also constructed the two major bridges along the highway at Kalikhola and Nunai.

Meanwhile, residents of three gewogs in Jomotshangkha drungkhag welcomed the news.

A resident, Rinchen Dorji, said since the highway was closed for traffic, they have had to travel along the Indian highway in an escorted group.

He said that although the groups are taking care of those travelling via India, it is still risky to travel along the Indian highway because of the rising Covid-19 cases in India.

Another resident, Kinzang Choden, said they could not travel and take care of shopping as per their plan when they travel with a group, adding that they also have to wait until everyone is ready.

She said it’s challenging for them, as they have to stay in hotels waiting until the next group because they cannot return on the same day. “It would help if the concerned authorities could open the highway to traffic.”

Orange growers in the three gewogs are worried because the harvest season is approaching.

“We are worried the oranges will rot before reaching the auction yard,” a resident, Kinzang Pelden, said.

According to the DoR, Project DANTAK has completed laying a granular sub-base (GSB) for about 20km and they have yet to complete widening about 11km of the road.

Officials said the road has been closed to traffic since June this year because landslides and flash floods, coupled with bad road conditions owing to new formation cutting, posed threats to the travellers.

Officials said that although the highway would be open to traffic by the second week of this month, blacktopping and construction of walls and drains aren’t expected to be completed until 2023.

Edited by Tashi Dema