Rajesh Rai | Lhamoizingkha

When the Manitar-Raidak highway opened in 2016 and connected Lhamoizingkha and Phuentsholing internally, many people assumed it would be a widely used secondary highway.

This, however, is not the case today, as the road is not widely used and the 33kms of the highway stretch from Pasakha to Manitar is the reason.

The road is in dire need of maintenance. Blacktopped stretches are rare. Starting right from Pasakha, it is a dusty journey. It takes an arduous two and a half hours to reach Manitar.

Many people prefer the Indian highway over the Manitar route.

Nar Bahadur Chhetri, 38, couldn’t believe the road condition between Manitar and Pasakha had deteriorated to what it is today. On the way home to Arekha from Pakchina, Sampheling, the Darla resident said it was his worst journey.

“This road was far better some years ago,” he said, adding today’s condition surprised him.

“I drove along this road after a long time.”

Nar Bahadur Chhetri also said that he would not take the route again. “There was not a single worker from the road department.” Considering the road width, he said the condition should also be maintained.

Heaps of mucks and debris have also been piled along the roadsides. Many areas have been filled with the muck.

The road is also mostly used by the mining trucks headed to Pasakha industrial estate. Light vehicles do not ply the road.

An official from the roads department said the ministry doesn’t have budget in the 12th Plan to carry out repair works at the Pasakha alternate route. “Although it’s a secondary national highway, it has not made it to the priority list in this plan,” he said. “However, we will carry out the repairs once we receive budget.”

Meanwhile, the scenario changes after reaching the Manitar junction, from where the 53km road to Lhamoizingkha starts. Although the use of this highway is still picking up, the blacktopped highway has brought economic changes to Lhamoizingkha and roadside settlements of Darla, Chukha.

In Deorali, Yangka Pem, 54 has been running a general shop for the last 20 years and had seen the highway develop since the beginning.

“The number of vehicles driving through has increased, which has improved the business for me,” she said.

Lhamoizingkha residents said the Lhamoizingkha-Phuentsholing internal road was not used optimally because of the Pasakha-Manitar road conditions. The Manitar-Raidak road also remains closed most of the time during summer due to blocks. With the swelling of Kalikhola on the Indian side and Indian highway closed, Lhamoizingkha remains totally cut off in summer.

Meanwhile, the distance between Lhamoizingkha and Phuentsholing was shortened by 18kms, while the distance between Lhamoizingkha and Thimphu was shortened by 98kms after the road opened to traffic. Travel distance between Thimphu and Samdrupjongkhar was also shortened by 26kms.