Yangchen C Rinzin

The National Environment Protection Act should be amended if obstructed the construction of Shingkhar-Gorgan highway, National Assembly members said yesterday.

Works and human settlement minister Dorji Tshering was questioned on the status of Shingkhar-Gorgan highway for the second time yesterday demanding that he clarify if the government would be able to construct the highway.

Maenbi-Tsaenkhar Member of Parliament Choki Gyeltshen reminded the minister that the government had pledged to construct Shingkhar-Gorgan highway. “However, people are yet to see the highway.”

“Now people are confused if the highway is coming or not. They want to know if at all it is coming because every time the issue is raised, there are different reasons for the delay.”

The status of Shingkhar-Gorgan highway, which has been promised by the past two governments has been repeatedly raised in the National Assembly. The issue has been there since 1997, members said.

MP Choki Gyeltshen said that it has become necessary to ask repeatedly with the hope there would be some progress.

“People have repeatedly asked about Maokhola bridge including the MPs, which is why now work on Maokhola has started,” MP Choki Gyeltshen said. “We’re questioning time and again on this road expecting similar change.”

Lyonpo Dorji Tshering said that the work has been delayed only because of the National Environment Protection Act and the reason is not different from what the past two governments have shared.

“If I say the highway would come then I don’t have an answer as to when it would exactly come. If I say it’s not coming then it would be a lie because it might come through in future,” Lyonpo said.

“The highway was not delayed because of a lack of technical capacity or expertise, it was solely because of the Environment Act and budget.”

MP Choki Gyeltshen said that if it was Act that is delaying the work then it should be amended. This proposal was supported by some members saying that it should be discussed in the House instead of arguing over the issue repeatedly.

Chumig-Ura MP Karma Wangchuk said that if it is important then Act should be put up for amendment or otherwise the government should maintain the road between Ura and Lingmethang or clear those roads that are on hold for maintenance because of Shingkhar-Gorgan highway.

Lyonpo said that to amend the Act, it is not up to the ministry. “However, it was learnt that the  Ministry of Agriculture and Forests would submit for amendment soon.”

“Only then, I can give a straight answer. However, we’ll ensure that other road work would be carried out as planned.”

Nganglam MP Choida Jamtsho also questioned the minister on the government’s pledge to construct 2,500 low rent apartments to solve the housing shortage issues. He said people are still living in Jaigaon as Phuentsholing has an acute housing shortage.

Lyonpo Dorji Tshering said that realising the gravity of the issue, the government decided to first develop a housing policy because there was none.

Lyonpo said the National Housing Policy 2019 has been developed and it would look into building affordable rental housing and homeownership, among many.

“We’re currently exploring the budget to enforce the policy.”

Meanwhile, Speaker Wangchuk Namgyel reminded the members not to raise the Shingkhar-Gorgan issue in the House since there has been no concrete response to the issue, which is time-consuming.

This is the second time the Speaker has cautioned members on this issue.