To empower gewogs with manpower and resources, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) pledged to blacktop all gewog centre (GC) roads. 

The government has today blacktopped 176 GC roads, achieving 85.9 percent of the pledge. While 26 GC still require blacktopping, three gewog centres – Soe, Lingzhi, and Lunana do not have GC roads. This was accounted to the gewog’s remoteness, difficult terrain, and involvement of huge cost.

Merak and Sakteng GC road is one of the 26 roads, which is not blacktopped. 

Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay in the state of the nation report stated that from the remaining GC roads that have not been blacktopped, nine are under construction and funds have been allotted to blacktop an additional 17 GC roads.

According to the report, Nu 4.5 billion (B) has been spent to blacktop 176 GC roads. “One of the biggest causes of rural urban migration has been lack of roads and that is why the government has invested in constructing roads to even the most remote communities. Funds to blacktop the remaining 26 gewog center roads have already been identified,” the PM reported.

The government allocated a capital outlay of Nu 26.7 billion for new construction, up gradation and maintenance of roads in the 11thPlan.

New roads such as the 76km Gyelposhing-Nganglam highway, the 29km Damchu-Chukha bypass and the 75km road between Haa and Samtse are also some key achievements of the government in the road sector. 

While the Gyelposhing – Nganglam highway had taken 12 years to complete, Damchu – Chukha bypass missed four deadlines before its completion in July this year after the work first began in 2010. 

Although work to widen the 385km East-West highway would spillover into the 12th Plan, the project is touted as one of the government’s major achievements. 

In an earlier interview with Kuensel, works and human settlement secretary, Phuntsho Wangdi, said about 15 percent of the works could spillover. “We will be able to complete at the most 85 percent of the works within this Plan.” Initially the plan was to complete only 60 percent of the work in the 11th Plan. 

Construction of the 80km secondary national highway between Dagapela to Dalbari road, which was halted due to an ACC investigation, has also resumed, Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay stated. “With 60 percent of the project being completed, the remaining works are expected to complete within one year. The government has also started the construction works for southern east-west highway in 2018, which will cover Langchenphu to Samrang in Samdrup Jongkhar and Chokorling to Dewathang.”

Although the southern east-west highway is one of the important road links in the country, works and human settlement minister, Dorji Choden at the national assembly’s question hour session last month said that the work today is on halt due to security reasons and is to be continued in the 12th Plan.

Although the construction of the southern east-west highway is not part of the government’s pledge, the construction began from Samrang to Jomotsangkha. From Choekhorling towards Dewathang until Khalatsho, the work to construct 19kms road had started. 

During the PDP’s women convention in Thimphu last month, Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay had said that PDP’s biggest achievement is improving road connectivity in the country. 

Amid success stories in the road sector, the pledge to build the Singkhar-Gorgan road remains unfulfilled. 

Construction of the controversial Shingkhar-Gorgan road, according to works and human settlement minister, Dorji Choden is still awaiting environmental clearance. Local leaders and people from Lhuntse have also shown concerns and disappointment on the incompletion of the road. 

According to the Anti-Corruption Commission report the public road construction sector was also found to have issues of lack of transparency, legislative flaws, weak procedures, improper planning, human resource constraints, and social ties.

Despite many initiatives, the commission observed poor road and bridge maintenance issues, major roads blocks, and poor road conditions still persist. 

At the end of the 10th Plan, Bhutan had 10,578.26km of various categories of roads nationwide. 

According to the state of nation report, the government constructed 5,400km of roads in the 11th Plan. “As a result of the road building initiatives, we now have a total of 11,200km of farm roads in the country and this wide network connects almost every village except for a few and we need to work towards this ‘last mile’ connectivity.”

About 4.8 percent of the people consisting of over 34,900 have to walk over an hour to reach the nearest road, the population and housing census, 2017, report states. Today, 91.6 percent of houses are within 30 minutes of a road head.

Phurpa Lhamo