With frequent strikes in India and other associated problems, people commuting to Samdrupjongkhar are waiting for the Jomotsangkha-Samrang highway construction to complete.

Construction of the 58km highway starts from Rongchuthang in Jomotshangkha to Samrang in Samdrupcholing drungkhag and will connect Jomotshangkha drungkhag to Samdrupjongkhar via Samrang.

Department of Roads (DoR) is executing the construction works that started in 2016.

A Lauri resident, Tenzin, said they have to travel along Assam when they go to Samdrupjongkhar, as there is no alternative route today.

He said it takes about four hours to reach Samdrupjongkhar when they travel along the Indian highway. “It is also risky to travel because Bhutanese get robbed.”

Tenzin said it would help them if the internal highway construction completes soon.

A shopkeeper from Jomotshangkha, Tashi, said people often get robbed and vehicles are damaged along the Assam highway, adding that the road condition is also bad. “It would help if the concerned authorities could complete the highway soon.”

He said frequent strikes hamper them during emergencies.

Tashi said that the Jomotshangkha-Samrang highway will not only address the issues along the Indian highways but it will also help the Bhutan Power Corporation (BPC) officials to improve electricity supply in Jomotshangkha drungkhag.

He said they have to stay without electricity for more than a week at times, as BPC officials could not fix the defaults in power lines because there is no internal road access. “But once the highway construction is complete, the electricity supply will also become reliable for the residents of Jomotshangkha drungkhag.”

Commuters said they face difficulties in getting lifts as drivers refuse to travel along the Assam highway given the risks and frequent strikes.

“The drungkhag has a bus service but we cannot rely on it as the bus owner often cancels the service to Samdrupjongkhar,” a resident said.

DoR’s chief engineer, Jigme Choida, said they have received Nu 2.5 million (M) in the 2018-2019 fiscal year and are carrying out the clearing work today. “We have requested for additional budget and hopeful to get it soon so that we could start the works.”

He said that about 30kms have been cleared towards Samrang from Jomotshangkha and about eight kilometres have been cleared towards Jomotshangkha from Samrang. “We will clear the remaining 20km as soon as we get budget as the highway also gets shortened by about 35km.”

Jigme Choidup said it is risky to work alone at the site, as it is an elephant prone area. “The elephants recently destroyed the camp when the labourers left for village.”

Kelzang Wangchuk | Jomotshangkha