The remoteness is hampering works

Infrastructure: At the rate of electrifying one household in a month, it will take a few more years to supply electricity to the 13 remote villages in Jigmechholing gewog, Sarpang.

The rural electrification package for 13 villages of Gong, Kholatar, Ritey and Simkharka began in 2012. So far only five villages with of 40 households got electricity. Works for remaining 60 households are underway.

At the base of Chudzom gewog (Dovan) piles of electric poles lie unattended. They were pushed down the hill from the road point and have landed near the Maukhola Bridge, which separates Chudzom and Jigmechholing gewog. From here the poles have to be carried by people.

Acute shortage of workers to carry the poles is delaying works. This is made worse by the absence of farm road, difficult terrain and non-cooperation from villagers, according to the contractor, Yeshey Lhendup.

The contractor said there are mostly old people in the village. “They cannot carry the poles and the households in the village are scattered,” he said. In some areas, houses are more than an hour’s walk apart.

Contractor Yeshey Lhendup resorted to hiring Indian laborers in groups of over 100, but everyone absconded after a few days. “It is the terrain and the distance that is making workers abscond,” he said. “Had there been no labour scarcity, the project could have long completed.”

He added at least 200 more poles for five transformers needs to be carried from Maukhola base.

In 2013 the contractor with the help of Bhutan Power Corporation’s regional office in Gelephu hired helicopter from Nepal to transport 13 transformers. Electrical engineer with BPC Sangay Wangdi said while more than two small transformers could fit in the chopper on a trip; only one big transformer could be lifted. It took several trips to airlift all 13 transformers.

The helicopter was hired at Nu 60,000 a trip, cost of which was borne by the contractor, Sangay Wangdi said. “Transformers are too heavy for people to carry,” he said. “Hiring chopper for transporting poles would escalate cost.”

These 13 villages are the furthest from the gewog centre. The villages are a day or two walk away from the nearest road point in Lhayul (Maugaon). Construction of the 26km farm road to connect all six chiwogs of Jigmechholing began in January last year. So far less than five kilometers have been complete.

Following directives from the head office in Thimphu, the BPC regional office in Gelephu in its meeting last week have committed to escalate the project.

BPC’s head of operation and maintenance division Tshering Norbu said by the end of next month, Gong school would be electrified. More than the villages, the school needs electricity urgently, he said.

But it is not sure when the remaining houses would be connected.

Nirmala Pokhrel, Gelephu