Two years after the 53km Manitar-Lhamoizingkha highway opened to traffic, Lhamoizingkha residents say the road did not bring much economic benefit to them.

This, the residents say, was because of the major roadblocks every summer.

Santa Kumar Gurung, 32, has stalled a small shop along the Manitar-Lhamoizingkha highway in Devitar, which is 20kms away from Lhamoizingkha.

He said people only commute through the road in winter. “There are not many vehicles plying the road in summer.”

Santa Kumar said blocks at Sonamja, Sauja, and Kezari affected the highway in the summer . “During winter also, only about 100 vehicles ply the road, including the vehicles belonging to Lhamoizingkha residents.”

The shopkeeper said the road is busy only on Sundays.

In Lhamoizingkha town, businessman Ambar Gurung said the highway has some benefit to the local economy.

He said the vehicle movement is not as much as expected and that only a few use it as a shorter route to Thimphu. “I think Dagapela highway would give us more economic benefit.”

The highway actually shortens travel distance between Lhamoizingkha and Thimphu by 98km.

The travel distance between Samdrupjongkhar and Thimphu is also shortened by about 26km and the distance between Phuentsholing and Lhamoizingkha is reduced by 18km.

Lhamoizingkha residents say that people from Darla and Gedu in Chukha use the highway but they only come to buy from Kulkuli, a small town across the border, for shopping, which residents say is cheaper than Jaigaon.

A restaurant owner in Lhamoizingkha, Yeshey, said the business community in Lhamozingkha does not have much benefit but Darla and Gedu people have benefitted.

Lhamoizingkha residents say that the highway must be made an all-weather-road for it to bring economic advantages.

Meanwhile, Department of Road’s (DoR) chief engineer in Phuentsholing, Dorji Wangdi, said the highway is used extensively.

“It would be used even more extensively if the Pasakha-Manitar road is improved,” he said, adding everyone would use the road once the bypass is improved.

Dorji Wangdi also said the highway would be used more once the Lhamoizingkha-Dagapela road at Dalbari is completed.

Manitar-Lhamoizingkha highway was completed with total funding of Nu 1.19B. The Asian Development Bank had financed Nu 734.98M as a grant, while the remaining Nu 462.93M was government funding.

Rajesh Rai | Lhamoizingkha