Carrying her two-year-old child on the back and holding her six-year-old daughter by the hand, Bhimla, 24, climbed a steep slope for about 25 minutes and walked down the slippery trail for another 15 minutes.

She was trans-shifting the Ossey block to take her elder daughter, who was admitted at Jigmecholing basic health unit (BHU) to the Central Regional Referral Hospital (CRRH) in Gelephu.

The villager from Samkara in Jigmecholing gewog said health officials in the BHU referred her daughter to CRRH. “My husband is busy in the farm and I had to come.”

She said the Ossey block has not only made life hard for the people of Jigmecholing but also posed risk, as it is difficult to trans-shift. “I was worried if my daughters and I could make safely to the other side of the road. If I miss a step, all three of us would die.”

Bhimla said villagers in Jigmecholing are also running short of the basic essentials and it’s too expensive to trans-shift it through the ropeway. “But it is worse when people fall sick.”

The block has also affected people of Zhemgang, Trongsa and Bumthang, who use the highway.

While people trans shift, they use an improvised ropeway, operated by a private individual to transport their goods to the other side of the road.

A Trongsa resident said the block has been on for too long and is affecting the daily lives of people. “It appears no one is bothered, as it is never getting repaired.”

The roadblock at Ossey has closed the Gelephu-Zhemgang highway to traffic for the last 18 days.  

Officials from the Department of Road’s (DoR) might open it to traffic in a week’s time if weather and geological conditions favour.

The executive engineer, Sonam Namgyal Wangdi, who was at the site 27kms away from Gelephu towards Zhemgang, said foggy weather and continuous landslides and slips hamper the road restoration works.

About 300ms of the road’s formation width was completely washed off and heavy landslides keep occurring, worsening the block. There is also a stream running from the middle of the slide, which officials say cannot be tapped and is causing more slides.

DoR has stationed eight people, including machine operators, two crawl drillers and three excavators on either side of the road. The crawl drillers were not functioning yesterday.

Bad weather and unstable soil also make it difficult for the officials at the site. A falling boulder hit an excavator recently and injured the operator.

It was learnt that business people of Zhemgang opt the Gomphu-Panbang route and travel via India to come to Gelephu.

A Bumthang resident, Leki, said the roadblock has been on for too long and he had to walk twice. “The bypass trail is muddy and risky.”

Party workers say the block is also hampering election campaigning. “Officials say it would be cleared soon but the site is too bad. There is no base,” a party worker, Dorji, said.

Meanwhile, there are several theories about the block.

While some believe the block is caused because of the unstable site, others claim that a lake above the block site is causing the landslide.

“The lake above dry but religious personalities say it is active within,” Nanda, 60, said.

Road officials say they have requested the head office to request Department of Geology and Mines to study soil stability and rule out the risk factor before realigning the road.

Road users say a new route should be proposed for the entire stretch.

Nanda said the whole area above the block had developed cracks and it might come down anytime even if the road is restored now. “The new alignment should be along the river.”

Tashi Dema | Sarpang