Provided that the existing security issues improve

Roads: Construction of the 68.3km Nganglam-Dewathang highway that was deferred following security issues will resume after a year, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said.

However, works will only resume if the security issues are resolved.  Lyonchoen was asked about why ‘many highway construction projects’ were stopped on vague security grounds, when internal road linkages would be more beneficial and pose less security issues than having to pass through the Indian highways.

Nganglam constituency representative, Choida Jamtsho, rasied the issue on May 19, during the question hour session of Parliament. “The cancellation of the highway has affected many gewog roads and other planned activities,” he said.

Lyonchoen said that, as a member of parliament, the Nganglam representative must be abreast of security issues as much as he is of the highway activities. “It’s the Lhamoizingkha-Sarpang higway that was cancelled and not any other highway projects,” lyonchoen said, asking Choida Jamtsho to justify the ‘many highway projects’ that he stated in his question.

Providing a background of the Nganglam-Dewathang highway project, lyonchoen said the tender evaluations were completed, and evaluation of the financial bids was underway, when the government issued directives to defer owing to security issues.  The highway is among the planned project under the ADB’s South Asian Socio-Economic Cooperation and the 11th Plan.  The overall cost of the highway project is Nu 69M (million), of which 73 percent was supposed to be an ADB soft loan.

With regard to the Lhamoizingkha-Sarpang highway, also funded by ADB, lyonchoen said, as work on the highway couldn’t begin in a year as mandated by ADB, they had to inform ADB and cancel the project owing to the numerous security issues.

Lyonchoen agreed that the Nganglam-Dewathang highway was an important activity in the 11th Plan.  He said that, as connectivity was essential to boost local economy and provide equal opportunities, the government prioritised gewog and farm roads besides highways. “But for a small country, security is of utmost priority for sovereignty,” lyonchoen said.

Lyonchoen said, after the NDFP militants issue started in Assam, the Indian government requested Bhutan’s support to flush out the militants. “I’ve been contacted personally and we were told to be vigilant, as there were high chances of the militants entering our territory,” lyonchoen said.

Leader of opposition, (Dr) Pema Gyamtsho, said as the information didn’t reach people, it had to be raised at Parliament for a better understanding. “Sovereignty and security of the nation is of utmost priority for everyone, but people weren’t able to understand how the highway would pose security issues,” he said.

When it was learnt that Nganglam-Dewathang highway was deferred for an indefinite period, people of Choekhorling and Dewathang raised the issue with their local leaders, saying they knew nothing of the progress of the highway.

Villagers said they were left wondering if the project had been cancelled or deferred, as even the gewog offices couldn’t provide a clear explanation.  Villagers said that the government should have at least informed the local leaders.

People of Choekhorling and Dewathang gewogs had contributed labour during the project preparatory process in 2011 and 2012.   With survey for land substitution completed, people were awaiting land compensation when the decision on the highway came.  About 100 landowners in Dewathang and 90 in Choekhorling were to be provided land substitution.

ADB has completed the project preparatory technical assistance (PPTA) worth about USD 670,000 between 2011 and 2012 for the Nganglam highway and the roads department spent about Nu 12.59M for the detail design of the road.

By Kinga Dema