Younten Tshedup | Gelephu

Should everything go as planned, the Maokhola bridge in Gelephu could materialise by December 2022.

The works and human settlement ministry last week issued a notification inviting Bhutanese consultancy firms to carry out a detailed investigation and design of the Maokhola bridge.

The letter stated that Bhutanese firms registered with the Construction Development Board (CDB) could form joint-venture/partnership/consortium/association with regional and international consultancy firms while submitting the proposal to the ministry.

Although not finalised, Kuensel learnt that Construction Development Corporation Ltd (CDCL) could take the lead in the bridge construction once the design is completed.

It was learnt that CDCL despite having a design team of its own, it could not take up the design package given its engagement in other projects under execution.

While the Department of Roads has outsourced the design package, CDCL could possibly be involved during the process so that there will be no ‘surprises’ during the implementation phase.

Works and human settlement minister, Dorji Tshering, however, told Kuensel that except for the tendering of the design works, nothing has been decided yet.

Lyonpo said that awarding the works would depend on the kind of design the ministry would receive.

However, it was learnt that CDCL is being considered to take the lead in the mega project given its past records of executing works and generating employment for Bhutanese.

It was also learnt that in the event where the project is directly awarded to CDCL, the advantage would be on minimising and avoiding delays in the project.

The open tender competition, which selects the lowest evaluated bidder to execute a project do not always guarantee quality work, officials Kuensel talked to said.  “If we land up getting a bad contractor through open tendering, we cannot undo the decision.”

Officials cited the example of Amochhu bridge, which took about nine years to complete and a three different contractors.

It was also learnt that not many Bhutanese contractors had the capacity to take up the project given its magnitude.

The bridge is expected to be about 800m with proposed river training measures making it the longest bridge in the country once completed.

Meanwhile, Kuensel learnt that the design works would be completed by July next year and handed over to the ministry.

Lyonpo Dorji Tshering said that if design works can be handed over to the project implementers by mid 2020, the bridge should be ready by the end of 2022.

“Provided the design is made simple enough, the project could be completed within two years,” he said. “However, if there are any complexities associated with the design, it could extend anywhere between two to two and half years.”

The government has a budget outlay of Nu 400 million in the 12th Plan for the Maokhola bridge project.