Connectivity: Sakteng in Trashigang is the only gewog to not have a road that goes all the way to its gewog centre. But this is expected to change.

The previous government decided to end the road to Sakteng at Thrakthri. The intention was to provide the herders with a source of cash income through eco-tourism, hiring of ponies and providing porter services to the tourists.

Currently, vehicles stop at Thrakthri, which is around 38km from Rangjung via Yarbang Phuemsum.

Even the road to Merak was supposed to end halfway but the decision was reversed after herders said they preferred road connectivity till the gewog centre rather than the potential earnings from eco-tourism.

People reasoned that eco-tourism benefits only a few individuals. “A road benefits the entire community, while tourism benefits only a few individuals who maintain homestays,” a herder from Merak, Nima, said.

Sakteng gup, Sangay Dorji, said that the people neither wanted eco-tourism nor the road to end halfway to the gewog centre. “Eco-tourism was the government’s plan. What the people wanted was a road to the gewog centre,” Sangay Dorji said.

“Eco-tourism has benefited only around five percent of the gewog’s population mostly those who own mules and horses. The road will benefit everyone,” Sangay Dorji said.

When the gewog raised the issue at the dzongkhag tshogdu, the tshogdu agreed to submit the proposal to relevant agencies. Following the dzongkhag’s submission, the government accepted the proposal and began extending the road from July last year.

“The work on the remaining 12km from Thrakthri to the gewog centre in Sakteng has begun and over 4km of formation cutting has been completed,” Department of Roads sub-division executive engineer Karma Tshewang said.

Nu 15 million (M) has been allocated for the extension work in the 2017-2018 fiscal year. The road is estimated to cost around Nu 110M.

As per the works and human settlement ministry’s plan, its first priority will be to complete formation cutting until Sakteng. The remaining works will be completed in phases. “Our objective is to get the road to the gewog centre even if it means it’s just a rough road,” Karma Tshewang said.

The construction of the road until Sakteng will not be easy since it requires changes to gradient and alignment. “Otherwise, the vehicles cannot pass each other under the existing conditions with many sharp turns,” the executive engineer said, adding that the problem would be particularly bad for heavy vehicles.

Tempa Wangdi | Trashigang