Tshering Namgyal | Mongar
Local leaders in Mongar and Pemagatshel propose a motorable bridge over Drangmechhu could unlock huge potential in trade and transport in Mongar and Pemagatshel.
The proposed bridge would replace the suspension bridge over Drangmechhu that connects Kengkhar gewog in Mongar and Shumar gewog in Pemagatshel.
Kengkhar gup, Pema Chedrup said the bridge would shorten the journey for the residents of Kengkhar and neighbouring gewogs to Samdrupjongkhar by more than 200km.
Travelling from Kengkhar via Mongar and Trashigang to Tshelinggor, Pemagatshel comes around 270 while the distance between Kengkhar to Tshelingor via Drangmechhu bridge is only around 65km.
Similarly, he said those from Pemagatshel would enjoy similar benefits. Mongar today is around 106 kilometers by road from Pemagatshel. “The bridge will benefit them particularly during their visit to the regional referral hospital as they don’t have to come via Trashigang,” Pema Chedrup said.
Moreover, he said Kengkhar produces traditional handicraft items like masks, palang and altar, and the bridge would benefit the community in marketing the products to the passers by.
Pema Chedrup said the gewog tried to include it in the 12th Plan but could not. “To put it in the Plan, we have to drop other activities which are equally important,” he said.
The suspension bridge over Drangmechhu is around 10km from the Kengkhar gewog centre and there is a six km road up to Gabcha. “We’re going to construct the remaining four kilometers road soon,” the gup said.
The gup said it was beyond the gewog’s capacity to construct the bridge and needed support from the dzongkhag and the central government.
Mongar planning officer, Thinlay said it was too late to incorporate in the Plan. Moreover, it was not what ministry wanted to pursue.
Dzongkhag officials said the bridge was feasible given the economic impact it would have on the lives of the local communities and suggested that it could be discussed during the midterm review. The dzongkhag estimated between Nu 50 to Nu 60 million for the construction.
The issue was raised in the recent dzongkhag tshogdu (DT) and members resolved to propose it during the mid-term review of teh 12th Plan.
Meanwhile, the issue was also discussed and resolved in the Pemagatshel DT.
Pemagatshel DT Thrizin, Pema Dorji said the agenda was discussed twice in the DT, the latest being in the fifth DT of the second local government. The resolution was submitted to the concerned department and ministry. However, he said the dzongkhag is yet to receive a response.
Emphasising that the bridge would be of immense benefit to the people of two dzongkhags, he said the need was discussed when the dzongkhag was drafting the 12th Plan. The dzongkhag administration wrote about the issue to the Gross National Happiness Commission. The commission directed that the infrastructure connecting two dzongkhags should be included in the works and human settlement ministry’s plan.
“We thought of including it in the gewog and dzongkhag plan but it was impossible because of the budget ceiling,” the Thrizin said.
On Pemagatshel side, a road has reached at Yurung zampa and about three kilometers are left to reach the suspension bridge at Demri in Shumar gewog. If connected, he said, Denchi town around the new dzong area, which is going to develop soon, could become the business center.
According to the Thrizin, about 90 percent of the dzong construction is complete and around seven of more than 20 of 40 plots allotted in the first phase have constructions underway.
Shumar gup Sangay Chophel said in the past, Denchi used to be trade center for the people of Kengkhar, where they traded oranges with edibles from the lone shop in Denchi.
Thrizin Pema Dorji said the locality has a huge sand deposit and is also suitable for logging and would contribute also in terms of economic development.