Road: While the government is satisfied with the recent quality checks on the east-west highway, the completion of the Semtokha-Wangdue highway has been deferred to June 2017.

Works and human settlement ministry officials told this newspaper that work on the Semtokha-Wangdue highway will be completed only by June 2017.

However, Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, who recently visited Wangdue and spoke to this paper, said that except for the Hungtsho stretch which might take until March 2017, all other work would be completed by the end of this year.

During Wangdue dzongkhag’s mid-term review in September last year, Lyonchoen ensured that the Semtokha-Wangdue highway would be completed by September 2016.

However, following a heavy monsoon and several issues caused by water seepage and landslides, the roads department in Lobesa had to suspend work on the highway for more than a month. Work only recently resumed.

Newly paved roads at several locations between Lobesa and Thinleygang even had to be dug up and re-paved.

Lyonchoen also said around 90 percent of the work on the Wangdue-Trongsa highway will be completed by December 2017. However, a few contractors may have to continue working beyond March 2018.

Lyonchoen said that the east-west highway is an important project, as it would shorten the distances of getting around the country.

“We are excited that we are doing it now, because it will be impossible in the future considering the volume of traffic that is increasing every month,” he said. “When the volume of traffic is large we need bigger roads even more urgently, however because of traffic there is difficulty in expanding the road.”

Lyonchoen said the contractors are working hard. He added that those contractors unable to meet standards are worried and ensuring they rectify their work. He pointed out that the work is showcasing the skill levels of the contractors. However, Lyonchoen said all contractors are on schedule.

“Our engineers have come up with very high specifications for this road; this road once completed should last at least 10 years,” Lyonchoen said. “With the liability period increased to three years from one, everybody is taking the work seriously.”

During his visit to Trongsa, Lyonchoen also conducted a surprise check on the quality of the east-west highway construction using a core-cutting machine.

He said the samples of both sites they tested surpassed the design specifications of 125mm. Both test results indicated about 140mm including more than 50mm of  asphalt concrete plus more than 75mm of dense bituminous macadam.

Finance minister Namgay Dorji told this newspaper that the government has purchased four core-cutting machines to conduct such quality checks on the roads within the country. This, Lyonpo said, is to help ensure quality roads in the country.

The Government of India funded the Nu 7 billion project to widen, upgrade and shorten the east-west highway.

Dawa Gyelmo, | Wangdue