Roads: A number of new roads across the country will be proposed in the revised road master plan (2007-2027) to improve inter-dzongkhag connectivity.

The roads department will also recommend that the new roads be implemented immediately. The department  however has completed only a Google Earth study on these roads following government directives and suggestions from the people of the respective dzongkhags.

“The new roads will be recommended in the revised road master plan that it is both socially and economically feasible,” roads department design division chief engineer, Lungten Jamtsho said. “Some of the proposals were also based on suggestions from the people.”

The proposed roads are between Mongar-Zhemgang, Trashi Yangtse-Lhuentse and Zhemgang-Bumthang, Chukha-Thimphu and Haa-Phuentsholing. A number of bypasses on existing highways such as the east-west highway will also be proposed.

One of the proposed roads is to connect Zhemgang, Mongar and Bumthang as proposed by the people of Wama in Mongar. If this plan comes through, a 32km road from Khomshar in Zhemgang will connect Wama in Mongar. Another road from Shingkhar in Zhemgang to Ura would connect the Kheng region with Bumthang.

Currently, travelling to Zhemgang from Bumthang or the eastern dzongkhags requires a detour from Bumthang and Trongsa, which is around 372km. Travelling through Trongsa is the only route to Zhemgang and the south central commercial hub of Gelephu as of now.

“The proposal is going to benefit the Wama people immensely. Plus travel distance would also be shortened between Bumthang and Gelephu by connecting Bumthang and Shingkhar,” roads department principal engineer, Karma Tenzin said.

A proposal to connect Lhuentse with Trashi Yangtse, which already exists in the current road master plan, will also be pushed as a top priority. To connect the two remote dzongkhags an existing 15.4km farm road in Minjay will be connected with the 19.7km Chhudhu farm road in Trashi Yangtse.

If Lhuentse and Trashi Yangste are connected with a 43.5km Minjay-Chhudhu road, the travel distance between the two dzongkhags will be shortened by an hour and a half. The current route via Trashigang and Mongar is  220km.

In the west, after the initial plan to connect Dagana with Thimphu failed because of rocky terrain, the roads department is going to propose an alternative route through Chukha. As per a Google Earth-based study, connecting Dagana will be possible by constructing a 40km road from Bemglachhu in Dagana with the under construction road to Getana from Gedu in Chukha.

A number of bypasses will be proposed to cut down unnecessary detours on the highways. For instance, a 6.5km bypass from Gegtongzam-Garpang is proposed to reduce the existing 14km drive from Nangar to Bumthang.

Similarly, a bypass from Taktsi-Tshangka in Trongsa has been proposed. This bypass will connect the exiting 3.6km Tsangkha farm road with a 6km new road linked to the 4.5km Mangdechu Hydropower Project dam site approach road from Taktsi.

“There is strong support from the department for the Taktse-Tshangkha bypass, which would save over 30km for travellers from Zhemgang and Gelephu en-route to Thimphu,” Karma Tenzin said.

The department also studied the possibility of a bypass at Namling, an accident prone area. “The department has looked at connecting Latongla with a farm road from Menchugang bypassing Namling,” Lungten Jamtsho said.

The proposed bypass is going to cut short the existing route of over 42km via Namling to just 30km. The existing highway climbs up to Namling from Latongla. The new route would descend from Latongla passing through a much lower and safer elevation bypassing Namling.

The department will also propose constructing a 64km bypass from Haa to Phuentsholing. “The proposed road will be constructed from Namchakhola-Amochu along the river bank,” Karma Tenzin said. “This new route would shorten the 64km journey to a mere 27km.”

While Shingkhar-Gorgan is stuck with environmental issues, the roads department is planning an alternative route for Lhuentse should the initial plan fail. The alternative route will be Yongkola-Galakpa.

These inter-dzongkhag connectivity roads and bypasses will be proposed to the ministry once the surveys are completed, which likely will happen once the department’s surveyors are done with the east-west highway widening works. “Once the surveyors give us the estimated length and number of bridges, the roads will be proposed to the ministry, which might seek Cabinet’s approval,” Karma Tenzin said.

Tempa Wangdi