Chencho Dema | Gasa

Travelling between the 72km Punakha-Gasa highway still remains difficult with several kilometres of the highway riddled with potholes, and bitumen peeled off.

Locals said that it was inconvenient for travel and dangerous too.

Despite multiple repairs carried out by the Department of Surface Transport (DST) office at Lobesa, Punakha, the road condition has not improved much, residents said.

During the monsoon, it’s not easy to travel to Gasa as the highway sees frequent roadblocks due to landslides.

A 42-year-old taxi driver, who frequently drives to Gasa, said that driving to Gasa was manageable in winter but in monsoon it is risky.

Another driver Tshering said that as soon as one enters the welcome gate at the dzongkhag’s boundary with Punakha, the road is bad up to Damji. “The authorities concerned should repair the road. Its condition is worse than the farm roads,” he said.

The Chief Engineer at DST office at Lobesa, Karma Tenzin cited a lack of budget for not resurfacing the highway.

He said that the department was aware of the issues and also admitted that although it is called the secondary highway it does not even have the standard of a dzongkhag road. “If we secure budget then we will begin the work in improving the road but lack of budget has put work on hold,” he said.

A proposal to widen the highway is expected to be in the 13th Plan.

The worst affected is the area between Gathana and Panikon because it was built over a paddy field. However, building a French drain to drain the water from below the road is seen as a possible solution.

While the road below Tashithangkha was blacktopped twice according to the Chief Engineer as the road condition still remains poor. The Lakhu road near Punakha town was blacktopped last year but is in bad shape.

Karma Tenzin said that the resurfacing of the road is done within five years but due to the lack of budget, the department could not carry out the work.

The Damji to Gasa stretch is good as the black-topping of the road was completed recently.