Works and human settlement minister Dorji Choden said that the construction of the first concrete road in the country has begun in Nganglam, Pemagatshel. The extra five-kilometre road stretch between the border entry gate and Dungsam Cement Corporation Ltd (DCCL) is underway.

However, Nganglam residents say it is not the first time the government has said so.

The minister during the question hour at the National Assembly said that the ministry tried the concrete road near DCCL and found that it performed better than the ordinary blacktopped road.

Residents said that the road, which is worst than a farm road, has remained the same with potholes. Actually, the potholes have been increasing by the year.

People of Nganglam said that according to the minister, the work has already begun from the Nganglam checkpost till Tsengkari bazaar, which is about 12km stretch, but they have not seen any work going on.

“We’ve been hearing all the time that the government doesn’t have budget to renovate.  When the government does, it does certain portions at a time. By that time, the renovated parts get damaged,” said Jigme, a resident. “In summer it is the potholes, in winter it is the dust that is a concern.”

Residents said the concrete road would remain as a lip service like before and they have almost lost hope for a good road.

“We don’t know which part they are talking about, but we’ve not seen any concrete road construction going on although there is one near the cement factory,” said another resident, Kezang. “If it is true, it is good for us. Otherwise, we’re tired of hearing that the road would be renovated whenever any VIP visits the area.”

Nanong-Shumar MP Dechen Zangmo raised a concern about Pemagatshel-Nganglam highway and the need to properly maintain the certain perennially damaged stretches.

The national highway, which has been benefitting the people of Pemagatshel, has been posing serious threats for the travellers and the public bus in particular at certain section because of portion of roadblock and damages, she said.

Nanong-Shumar MP said: “The road condition has gotten worse within two years of completion, posing even life threat to the travellers commuting along the highway.”

Lyonpo Dorji Choden said that athough the road is very comfortable, its condition become bad at two points, one at Laniri and another at Baynang Goenpa, which are 14km and 23km from Dungmin respectively.

She added that during monsoon last summer, the road created inconvenience for the heavy vehicles. Many travellers and locals had called her about the problems and the department of roads had to clear it.

The minister said: “It is similar to the inconvenience that happens even along the well-established roads such as the Thimphu-Phuntsholing and Samdrup Jongkhar-Trashigang highways.

“The problems mostly occur during summer. Otherwise, I don’t see any major problem in the highway,” the minister said.

She said that government is concerned about the quality road as there will be gypsum trucks plying on the highway, which might cause bad road condition to worsen.

Therefore, with discussion with Pemagatshel dzongdag, dzongkhag administration is looking for other alternatives to strengthen the road.

Currently, 127km Pemagatshel-Nganglam highway, which was completed in 2015, has been paved with base course.

The government will be paving 20km of the road by next year.

The Asian Development Bank has funded the Panbang-Nganglam and Pemagatshel highway construction.

Tashi Chophel & Yangchen C Rinzin