Gewog Roads: The National Council discussed at length on the need to review the existing construction manual and specification for blacktopping of gewog centre roads during its budget appropriation bill deliberation yesterday.
Some council members expressed concerns over the quality of blacktop on gewog centre (GC) roads.
Trongsa’s council member Tharchen said that only 32 GC roads in 205 gewogs have been blacktopped. “If the government has been able to blacktop only 32 GC roads, I am concerned if it is not an indication of the government’s inability to deliver up to mark,” he said.
He also said that both people and local leaders were complaining of the quality of blacktopping works that was also highlighted in the media several times.
Bitumen thickness of GC roads was another area that NC members expressed concerns on. “I doubt the government’s intention of rushing to blacktop GC roads under poor quality,” Tharchen said.
Council members also said that if people were to benefit from agriculture, GC roads played a vital road.
Punakha’s council member Rinzin Dorji said that the Shegana road, blacktopped a year ago, was now riddled with potholes. “It is important for the house to strongly recommend on the need to review blacktopping specifications,” he said.
Tharchen reiterated the need to review the balance of quantity on the GC blacktopping works. “If these specifications are not reviewed, the same problems are going arise even next year,” Tharchen said.
Sharing similar stories, Dagana’s council member said there were reports of bitumen coming off even before the blacktopping reached midway to the gewogs. “When I asked the contractor on the meagre thickness of the bitumen, they told me that it’s as per the specifications in the balance of quantity as there wasn’t enough budget,” he said.
Similarly, Gasa NC member Sangay Khandu shared complaints of people from his dzongkhag. “They said that bitumen is coming off since they were smeared as little as butter on bread,” Sangay Khandu said. “It is important to blacktop the roads with quality now to reduce recurring expenses in future for poor works.”
Council members also expressed concerns on the cost escalation in construction works.
“Given the delay the cost of Amochhu bridge is likely to escalate by 80 to 90 percent from the initial estimate,” Samtse’s council member Sangay Khandu said. “When the budget is appropriated it is important to put in place measures to ensure that works are not delayed in future.”
Sonam Dorji said that delay in construction work was not limited to just bridges. “Cost escalation in construction works are major issue in the construction sector today,” he said.
Therefore, if this is to be corrected, he said it was important to adopt proper methods and measures to prevent delays and subsequent cost escalations. “It’s high time that the existing construction manual is reviewed as well,” he said.
Sonam Dorji also raised issue on Nu 320 million worth Lhamoizingkha-Dagana road, which has been suspended for last two and half years after suspected corruption. “After spending whatever budget was available, the government is of the view that there is no money for it,” he said.
The Cabinet decided to suspend the works after contractors filed a petition suspecting corruption. But after over two years since the Cabinet decided to suspend the works no one has been charged for corruption putting the blame on system flaws, he added. “In the midst of the blame game, people are suffering,” Sonam Dorji said.
He said that even if it’s the government, it should be held accountable as huge cost escalation has incurred given such decisions.
Council’s deputy chairperson Tshering Dorji said that since the poor quality of blacktop seems to be because of policy flaws, the house would not include it as recommendations for now. “The house would convene later to discourse on it to make the recommendations for reviewing blacktopping specifications,” he said.