The rooster year saw the works and human settlement ministry mired in delays.

The year did not see much completion of highway constructions but ministry officials insist there has been progress. For instance, the widening works on the 100km Northern East-West highway spilled over to the 12th Plan. Some of the progress on this North highway was the inauguration of first 65km stretch from Semtokha to Wangdue Zam, Dochula and Wangdue Zam.

The rooster year was no different for the Shingkhar-Gorgan road construction plan. Besides members of the Parliament, Lhuentse Dzongkhag Tshogdu also questioned the status of this controversial road construction, which has so far been held up for want of an environment clearance. The clearance has halted the highway construction after the National Environment Commission asked Department of Roads to first clear the legal aspects of the proposed road after reviewing the environmental impact assessment.

The ministry is still waiting for the clearance and until then, this road is likely to remain a plan.

However, despite security concerns, the government announced that it would start the 15km road construction from Rishore in Dewathang towards Khalatsho as a part of the 68km Southern East-West Highway. The Dewathang – Nganglam highway was approved as part of South Asian Sub-regional Economic Cooperation.

Although the year saw several blacktopped gewog connectivity roads being inaugurated, the government is unlikely to meet its pledge to blacktop all GC roads by the end of its term.

The Bhutanese may not see all national highways coming through this year but the long awaited Gyalpoizhing-Nganglam highway could be completed in the year of the dog. The construction of the double-lane highway has been on for the last eight years.

But the ministry’s progress on its construction is still commendable when compared to Project DANTAK. The Project reports one percent progress a month on all construction projects that DANTAK is handling in the country. After missing almost four deadlines, the construction of the Damchu-Chukha bypass is still ongoing. According to DANTAK’s monthly report to the ministry, the bypass is expected to complete this June.

Some of the ministry’s successful activities were standardisation of road signs approved by the Bhutan Standard Bureau, launching of e-procurement, reforms in procurement and six gewog centre roads opening to traffic. The roads department is also prepared for any disaster emergency and has already procured components of bridges measuring 140ft and 100ft with the budget of Nu 100 million.

There is much work to do for the ministry. For a start, it hasn’t started implementing the standardised signboards nationwide and the housing policy is perhaps still, being drafted. For now, we could at least be pleased to see the “Paro welcomes you to Bhutan” signboard.

Yangchen C Rinzin