Commuters plying along the 22kms Pemagatshel-Tshelinggor highway are worried, as the condition of the road is becoming worse.

The highway is important for the people of Pemagatshel as it connects the dzongkhag with Samdrupjongkhar.

“But there are no maintenance and blacktopping works carried out for a long time,” a Pemagatshel resident said.

A truck driver, Thukten, 35, said it is difficult to ply along the highway as the road is filled with potholes. “It is even difficult for trucks to ply.” He ferries gypsum from Pemagatshel to Samdrupjongkhar.

He said that the Department of Roads (DoR) and other authorities are not concerned about the road’s condition. “We hope the government will blacktop the road as it’s in dire need.”

Road users also claim that the road needs to be widened as the number of vehicles plying along the highway has increased and the highway is narrow.

The issue was also discussed at the dzongkhag tshogdu (DT) several times.

A truck driver, Dechen, who also ferries gypsum from Pemagatshel, said the worsening road condition hampers them, as they have to ferry 15 truckloads of gypsum a month. “Although it is a highway, the condition of the road is worse than a farm road.”

He said few stretches of the highway was maintained and blacktopped from Tshelinggor towards Pemagatshel but the remaining stretches are not blacktopped and is ridden with potholes.

Truck drivers said they spent more than Nu 50,000 a month to maintain trucks since it gets damaged and the poor road condition also extends travel time.

Local leaders said they raised the issue during the fifth DT and DoR officials informed them that they are going to carry out the widening and blacktopping works in the 12th Plan. “But nothing is done until now.”

DoR’s chief engineer, Jigme Choidup, said they have carried out an assessment of the works for widening and maintaining the road. “The detailed project report (DPR) is also ready.”

He said the department didn’t blacktop the whole stretch but maintained it often.

The chief engineer also said that the widening and blacktopping works would be carried out until Khothakpa, which is about 36kms from Tshelinggor.

Jigme Choidup said that about 80 to 90 trucks ferrying gypsum ply the highway and 25mm blacktop do not last long. “We have proposed for 100mm blacktop as the highway is one of the industrial roads.”

He said they are waiting for the budget and requires about Nu 526 million.

Kelzang Wangchuk |  Pemagatshel