Tshering Namgyal | Mongar

Following the completion of ongoing blacktopping of Merak and Sakteng gewog centre (GC) roads, all the 15 gewogs in Trashigang will have blacktopped GC roads.

The work on the road from Khardung to Merak that stretches 35.4 km has been awarded in two packages to the contractors. The 19-km stretch from Shetimi to the gewog center was awarded as a first package in September 2020 for the period of 24 months with a total budget of Nu 76.5 million.

In the second package, the work from Khardung to Shetimi was awarded in April 2021 to be completed in April 2023 at the cost of Nu 66.48 million.

Similarly, for Sakteng gewog, the blacktopping project was awarded from Dogorom to Sonachhu, which is 31 km, at Nu 91.38 million. The work at the 31-km stretch that started in May 2020 is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year.

However, there is no plan to blacktop the remaining 16km stretch from Sonachhu to the gewog centre as of now.

Dzongkhag chief engineer Lekjay said the work is in full swing and the progress is estimated to be about 40 percent complete in some points as of now.

Once blacktopped, the distance between the Merak and dungkhag administration in Sakteng is expected to be shortened by at least three hours. The road will also shorten the distance to Trashigang from Sakteng.

“A blacktopped road will help us immensely, and it will definitely make the distance shorter,” said a Merak resident, Sangay Dorji.

There is no plan for internal roads between Merak and Sakteng, given the rich biodiversity within the Sakteng Wildlife Sanctuary.

Given their unique semi-nomadic lifestyle, culture, and scenic pastoral valleys, the Tourism Council of Bhutan (TCB) has identified Merak and Sakteng gewogs as eco-tourism hotspots in Trashigang.

TCB has approved two major tourism activities in the gewogs under Global Environment Facility funding: Run for Biodiversity and Jomo Panda Trail.

Appropriate amenities and facilities will be installed along the trails.