With more than 100 meters of the road’s formation width washed away at Ossey, 28km away from Gelephu, the Gelephu-Zhemgang highway has remained closed to traffic for the last three days. 

Landslides are occurring continuously and Department of Road (DoR) officials said the situation at the site is critical. Officials say even after the rain stopped, the landslide has been occurring.

DoR deployed three excavators but has not been able to execute any clearing work. 

Chief engineer, CB Mongar, said the soil in Ossey is loose soil and it slides with the slightest rain or even without rain. 

He said that since the road’s formation width is washed away, it would take some time to make a new route. 

It would not be possible to open the road to traffic by just clearing the existing slide area. “A new route, temporary from above the slide area is being planned. When we open a temporary road access, we’ve to make it pliable.”

The road that was washed away was a new route excavated last year after the old blacktopped road was washed away. Last year, the department dug a 500meter long road with at least 70ms high from the old road base. 

“We’ve to carry out a proper study before we make another road and it will take time,” CB Mongar said. 

The chief engineer also said that going by the current situation, any further cutting at the same location would ultimately be washed away. “There is a need to bypass the route,” he said. “For that, the department is already surveying the area.” 

It is expected that the survey report will be complete by the end of the monsoon to be submitted to the ministry. 

Meanwhile, all bus services between Gelephu-Zhemgang and Trongsa – Bumthang has been suspended. While the bus between Gelephu and Bumthang was suspended a few days earlier, the Zhemgang bus ferried passengers few times. 

Regional transport officer, Sonam Chophel, said the bus service would remain suspended until the road is cleared and safe to commute. “In coordination with traffic police, vehicles are not allowed further from Chisopani check post.”

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang