Widening works on the Northern East-West Highway, which was to have been completed by the end of 2017, is still under progress and not likely to complete soon.

Although the works and human settlement minister, Dorji Tshering, during the December 28 Friday meet, assured that except for one contractor, the widening would complete by February, sources say it might defer until the end of next year.

The minister said 44 contractors are involved in the road construction, which is divided into packages and about 40 contractors have completed the work.

“Only four contractors are lagging behind because of various challenges they encountered. Some contractors encountered rocky cliff,” the lyonpo said.

He also said that the contractors are working hard and it would not take time.

Lyonpo Dorji Tshering said the widening works would complete by February and only one contractor might defer until June.

He said the ministry officials met with contractors recently and decided to expedite the widening work. “We told the contractors that we would provide full support to them and they should complete the works on time with quality.”

Figures available from the Department of Roads state that as of December 15, of the 39 packages of work awarded to 30 contractors for the 304kms of the road, 22 contract packages are complete and 17 are on-going.

The official completion was June 2018.

The report showed that of the 77kms road between Wangduephodrang-Chuserbu, except for the blacktopping and l-drain, the formation cutting, granular sub-base (GSB) and wet mix macadam (WMM) is 100 percent complete.

While the blacktopping is 86 percent complete, l-drain is 95 percent complete.

The progress of 44.40kms Chuserbu-Trongsa stretch is poor with even the formation cutting incomplete. The progress of blacktopping is 62.45 percent and l-drain is 68 percent.

The 52.60kms Trongsa-Nangkhar stretch showed 99 percent formation cutting complete, 98 percent gsb complete and 92 percent wwm complete. While the blacktopping is only 60 percent, the l-drain is also 64 percent complete.

The blacktopping work for 65.89kms Lingmethang-Yadi stretch is only 43 percent complete with only 28kms blacktopped. The formation cutting, however, is 99 percent.

The blacktopping of Yadi-Trashigang stretch, which project DANTAK executes, is 59 percent complete as of November 20.

DoR officials say the progress changes every day.

Sources, however, said there are more than 11 packages where the work progress is slow and it is likely to take more time.

A source said that in the Wangduephodrang-Chuserbu stretch, Adagangchu area and few stretches after crossing Pelela might take time to complete the blacktopping.

From Chuserbu to Nangar in Bumthang, which the DoR office in Trongsa monitors, of the 15 packages, only four contractors completed the work and handed it over.

Chief engineer in Trongsa, Ugyen Dorji, said three contractors also completed the work but they did not hand it to DoR.

It was learnt that the package from Viewpoint to Jeezam and Jeezam to Trongsa area is lagging behind. “From the Viewpoint to Jeezam area, even the formation cutting is not complete,” a source said.

The progress of Lingmethang to Yadi area, according to sources is also lagging behind. “From Lhuentse junction to Mongar proper and Korila area, there is no men and machinery at the site. We don’t know if DoR is monitoring,” the source said.

DoR officials in Thimphu refused to share the name of the contractors who did not complete the work on time, reasoning it would demotivate the contractors to work.

Meanwhile, the widening of Ura-Lingmithang stretch of the Northern East-West Highway would be done with the Nu 400M budgeted for the construction of the Shingkhar-Gorgan road if the construction of the later road doesn’t come through.

Tashi Dema