Merak gewog in Trashigang was connected with a motorable road in 2014. However, it is yet to benefit the people.

Continuous rainfall in the summers and ice during winters make it difficult for vehicles to ply the road.

With the meandering road mud-ridden, planning a trip to the highland community at this time of the year is a bad idea.

Except for a few locals of the community who own a Bolero pickup, no taxies or private vehicles would make a deal to go to Merak, especially during the monsoon.

Taxi drivers of Trashigang refuse to go to Merak even if an individual wants to take it on hire.

A taxi driver, Ugyen, said he wouldn’t go even if he is paid Nu 5,000 for a trip. “The maintenance cost of the journey would far exceed the charges,” he said. “We can afford to travel to Merak only during April, May, September and October months when the road conditions are little better.”

The people of Merak have requested the government to delay the blacktopping of the road and instead focus on setting a proper base-course.

The issue was raised when the Prime Minister visited the gewog in May this year. Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay assured the people that their request will be looked into.

However, with the deteriorating condition of the road every monsoon and no signs of work to stabilise the base course initiated, the highlanders are losing patience.

One of the residents, who requested anonymity, said that it was the present government’s pledge to blacktop all the gewog centre roads to the dzongkhag. “Their term is almost ending but we don’t see any improving on the road.”

He said that understanding that it wouldn’t be possible to blacktop the entire 35km road till the gewog centre, the people requested the budget for the blacktop to be used in providing a quality base course with a proper drainage system. “When politicians fly in a helicopter, they will surely not see the problems on the ground.”

Merak mangmi, Phurpa, said that recently commuters were stranded for two nights and a day because their vehicle couldn’t cross the muddy road. “There is no way small vehicles can ply. Only Bolero pickup trucks and Hilux with four wheels can make the journey,” he said.

Department of Roads (DoR) officials in Trashigang said that budget for Merak’s gewog centre road improvement has been proposed in the 2017-2018 budget.

Officials say that after a preliminary survey of the area, a total of Nu 15.5 million (M) has been proposed for the improvement of the road that includes laying of base course and constructing a drainage system.

The DoR engineer said that the estimation works where the soling needs to be done is currently underway and will be completed by mid-August. “The budget for the improvement of the road should be released by the end of the month,” he said.

He also said that once the budget is released, they would start the tendering processes to begin the work.

Merak gup, Lama Rinchen, however, said that the gewog would appreciate if the work starts sooner.

He said that the gewog is planning to request the works and human settlement minister to visit the gewog so that they could raise the issue to the minister personally.

Lyonpo Dorji Choden is expected to reach Trashigang on July 16.

Merak residents said that DoR cleared the road and conducted maintenance when education minister visited Merak on July 13.

Younten Tshedup