The latest in a series of delays is due this time to an inability to supply local labour

Road: Construction work on the 11km Shingkhar gewog centre road (GCR) in Zhemgang has again hit a speed breaker, after the gewog informed the regional road office that it was facing difficulties in mobilising workers for the construction.

In its March 10 letter to the department of roads (DoR) regional office in Tingtibi, the gewog office stated that it could no longer provide labour from the villages as it had promised earlier at the 6th dzongkhag tshogdu (DT).

“With the onset of farm work now, getting labour has become even more difficult,” Shingkhar gup, Needup said.

A similar letter, written on January 13 this year, stated that, since every household has only a man and a woman each, no labour could be mobilised.

“Therefore, the gewog urges DoR to kindly arrange the expatriate workers instead,” the letter stated.

Chief engineer at the regional office, Pravat Rai, said that over 15 labourers required everyday for the construction work are also paid for their work. “The gewog promised us enough labourers from the villages,” Pravat Rai said.

After receiving the gewog’s letter, the regional office convened an urgent committee meeting and decided to contract the remaining 5.4km of road.

“DoR is preparing the contract package and no first cutting will be done beyond 5.6km,” he said.

Only the finishing work between Therang and Wamling will be continued and, while no overhead costs are likely to incur, the tender process could take a couple of months.

Road officials said villagers have always been creating problems with Shingkhar road’s construction. “This is not how an executing agency would have wanted the work to go,” Pravat Rai said, adding that the department was exhausted with the disruptions.

The road construction had resumed in February after a month long interruption following a disagreement on the alignment between the villagers of upper and lower Wamling.  The obstruction in Wamling was the third after it got stalled for lack of budget initially.

Later in 2013, 78 households from Thrisa interrupted the construction with a proposal in the DT to realign the road through their village.

The proposal however was shot down, for the realignment through Thrisa escalated the cost by Nu 25M (million) and increased the length to 25km.

As the road entered Wombugang below Wamling toward the fall of 2014, the people of upper Wamling, who were pursuing realignment through their village, again obstructed the construction.  The dispute stalled work for over a month until the ministry relented with a three-kilometre approach road to upper Wamling.

The GCR work then resumed in early February this year and DoR even completed the survey of the access road to upper Wamling, besides pursuing forestry and environmental clearances.

Impatient and exhausted with the disruptions, DoR has now put its foot down.

“If people further try to disrupt the work once it’s contracted out, they’ll be dealt as per the law,” Pravat Rai said, adding such interruptions also affected the target achievement of annual performance agreement, although the DoR has until June 2016 to complete the works.

By Tempa Wangdi, Tingtibi