Both the candidates of Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) and Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) have listed the Maokhola bridge as a priority in their respective manifestos.

DPT’s Pema Tashi and Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa’s (DNT) Karma D Wangdi have revived the dream yet again for the people of Sarpang.

If there is a new bridge over Maokhola, people from Gelephu town can reach the new drungkhag office in Umling gewog in half an hour by car, according to the candidates. Today, people take about three hours to reach the drungkhag office from Gelephu throm by a car via the Chisopani gate.

The candidates said that the relevance of bridge increased after the drungkhag office of Gelephu was shifted across the bridge in Umling gewog to from Gelephu thromde.  The people of Gelephu dungkhag visit the drungkhag office for various works.

DNT candidate from Gelephu, Karma D Wangdi, told Kuensel that a bridge over Maokhola was a basic infrastructure required for the development of Gelephu thromde. Gelephu, he said, had the best chance to be a metropolitan city in Bhutan.

“The pledge to build a bridge over Maokhola is both in the constituency and national manifestos. Gelephu deserves the bridge,” Karma Donnen said.

DPT candidate Pema Tashi said: “There is no specific pledge about a bridge over Maokhola in our national manifesto. But it will automatically come in the east-west road connectivity plan of DPT. We have plans to connect Panbang in Zhemgang via the four gewogs across the Maokhola.”

DNT’s president Lotay Tshering was in Gelephu campaigning for his party. He said during his meetings with the people of Chuzargang gewog that only his party had the Maokhola bridge in the manifesto.

The bridge construction pledge was one of the main demands of DNT candidate Karma D Wangdi to the party when the party asked him to join as a candidate, according to DNT.

“Whether the highway comes through or not, we will build the bridge,” the DNT president said at a meeting in Chuzangang yesterday.

If the highway to Zhemgang from Gelephu via the four gewogs across the Maokhola doesn’t come through, the DNT president said the Gelephu throm will be connected to Panbang and Lhamoidzingkha with smaller roads.

There are four gewogs across the Maokhola river in Gelephu drungkhag.

“We have included the pledge for the Maokhola bridge in my constituency pledge for Gelephu constituency,” Pema Tashi said.

The DPT candidate said that the bridge would cost a lot of money but that it was doable. “There is a long bridge in India’s Karnataka state. It will be something like that,” he said.

The DPT candidate also said that the domestic airport in Gelephu must be maintained and upgraded to an international airport in five years. “Building a bridge over Maokhola alone is not enough for the development of Gelephu,” Pema Tashi said.

“We need to focus on inter-dzongkhag and inter-gewog road connectivity. We need to see what we can do to ease the rules regarding foreign workers in Gelephu,” he said.

He has also pledged to make possible for Indian tourists entering via Gelephu to travel to Zhemgang and Tsirang. He said that there should be a parking space for Indian vehicles so that the Indian tourists could hire Bhutanese vehicles from Gelephu.

A resident of Chuzargang, Sangay, 45, said that the Maokhola bridge is an issue close to his heart. “Some people lost their life before while trying to cross the river in summer,” he said.

A resident of Umling, Karma Tshering, 54, said that a bridge over the river was required irrespective of whichever party wins the election. “The bridge is the requirement of people of the four gewogs across the river,” he said.

MB Subba | Sarpang