Chencho Dema | Punakha  

Phub Tshewang is exhausted and out of breath. But the two plastic bags full of vegetables and a bag of rice is not weighing him down. He has a bus to catch. As he crosses the newly-built bridge, he is thankful that he does not need to use the time-consuming ropeway.

The residents of Bali, Chhubu gewog in Punakha like many others are happy with the new infrastructure in the gewog. The recently-inaugurated steel saves time, and is safe and wide enough for vehicles to pass. Before this bridge, there was a ropeway over the Mochhu river which was the lifeline for the villagers of Bali village.

“We faced many challenges and risks crossing the ropeway during the monsoon,” he said.

The 150-feet long bailey bridge with a carrying capacity of 18 tonnes was constructed with funding assistance from the Government of India. The Bridge was completed on October 30 and was formally inaugurated on November 12 in the presence of Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji.

Residents of 33 households in Bali depend on agriculture. Almost everyone grows chillies, beans, slipper gourd, cucumber and eggplant to supplement their income. The agricultural produce is taken to Khuruthang town for sale during the weekends.

“We can now easily transport our agricultural products to the market and earn better than before,’’ Phub Tshewang said, adding that the bridge has reduced travel time to an hour from Bali to Khuruthang.

Another villager, Namgay Om said she is happy that she does not need to walk for hours like before. “It took us two days to take our goods to the vegetable market in Khuruthang. We pack our goods in sacks, carry them and leave them with one of the shops in Zhoshi village about an hour’s walk from our village. We have to pay Nu 10 for every sack. But today, we just need to drop it till the bridge and a vehicle is ready to take our goods to the town,” said Namgay Om.

Chhubu Gewog is one of the biggest gewogs in Punakha. The bridge connects Kabisa gewog and Bali in Chhubu gewog.  Gup Jimba Gyeltshen said that the bridge would change life in the gewog. “Agricultural produce is their (farmers) only source of income and without a bridge, they had to struggle walking for hours carrying heavy loads of vegetables and rice to get to the nearest road point,” he said. The bridge, he added, will enhance the sale of vegetables and improve their earnings.

Bali chiwog is one of the remotest chiwogs in Punakha dzongkhag.