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Residents of Merak in Trashigang allege local leaders of deciding to forgo the blacktopping of their gewog road without consulting the public.

One of the residents, Wangdi, said they learnt about the gewog forgoing the gewog centre (GC) road’s blacktopping works only during the visit of the Prime Minister in May earlier this year.

“Lyonchhen told the gathering that we were wise enough to have declined the 5km blacktopping works and opted for a proper base-course along the whole stretch of the road,” he said. “It came as a surprise as local leaders never informed or consulted us.”

Wangdi said that the government’s pledge was to blacktop all 205 GC roads.

Another resident, Pema Wangdi, said that if what the Prime Minister said was true, it meant that the gewog office had already decided to forgo the blacktopping works.

“This is the problem,” he said. “Our local leaders never discuss anything with the public. There was no discussion by the gup, mangmi or tshogpa regarding the 5km blacktopping works,” he said.

Pema Wangdi said that it appears that the government and local leaders are consulting and making decisions on their own without informing the public.

Merak gup, Lama Rinchen, said the blacktopping work was delayed because the road was not properly set for blacktopping. “Instead we requested the government to lay a proper base-course along with a proper drainage system.”

He said the blacktopping of 5km of the total 35km road would not have made much difference for the commuters since the area is already pliable even without a blacktop.

The gup, however, refused to comment on discussing the issue with the public prior to taking the decision.

Merak mangmi, Phurpa, said that the public was consulted before they made the decision. He said people gathered to discuss the issue and those who attended gave a letter of undertaking.

Wangdi, however, said that the undertaking signed by the people were not for declining blacktopping works but for some other discussions. “The local leaders are misusing the thumbprints of the public. Those thumbprints were taken during a different meeting.”

Merak toed tshogpa, Rinchen Wangdi, said that on December 17 last year, few people from the locality led by the gup and mangmi visited the works and human settlement minister in Kanglung where they presented their views of forgoing the 5km blacktopping works and instead opting for a proper base-course.

“We discussed with the minster after consulting the public back home,” he said. “As the representative of the public, three men also accompanied us when we visited the minster.”

One of them who accompanied the group, Tshering Wangdi, said that during the visit in Kanglung, except for the farm-road issue, there was no discussion on forgoing the 5km blacktopping works. “When I saw the letter that was drafted by the gup on declining the blacktopping works, there were only 60 signatures on it,” he said. “I think if they had discussed the matter with the public, the number of signatures should have been more than 60. I wasn’t one of the signatories.”

Meanwhile, Department of Roads (DoR) officials in Trashigang said that since the road was completed in the 2014-2015 fiscal year, the blacktopping works would not last its intended lifespan if blacktopping were done at this stage.

Officials also say that blacktopping of Merak GC road was not included in the department’s annual performance agreement (APA).

They say that Nu 10 million has been approved in the 2017-2018 fiscal year for the improvement of the GC road that includes laying the base-course and constructing a drainage system.

Younten Tshedup |  Trashigang

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