Sonam Bja road construction cuts off Lhamoizingkha

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

Construction and widening of the stretch at Sonam Bja on the Manitar-Lhamoizingkha highway resumed on November 2.

Lhamoizingkha residents are worried as their main road link with Gedu and Phuentsholing has been cut off.

After a landslide caused by heavy rains damaged the 120-feet bailey bridge in July this year, vehicles used a small wooden bridge raised adjacent to the bailey bridge.

Now, both the bridges will be removed. The construction could take at least four months.

Sonam Bja is 69km away from Phuentsholing via Jumja, from where Lhamoidzingkha is about 36km.

A shopkeeper in Lhamoizingkha town said, “We were bringing in goods from Gedu for the past few months and price of goods had increased.”

Lhamoizingkha town’s business representative Yeshey Dorji said getting goods from Dagapela road, which is yet to complete, will be costly.

“Where will we buy from now? Many still brought from Phuentsholing and coming to Phuentsholing via Dagapela would be expensive,” he said.

“Although the prices of goods and commodities in Lhamoizingkha had skyrocketed once at the height of the pandemic, it had decreased recently. But it may increase again.”

Meanwhile, the chief engineer with the department of roads’ regional office in Phuentsholing, Karma Dorji said that removal of the existing bridge has started and will complete three days. Actual work on widening or formation cutting will begin on November 7.

“We’ll be working for nine hours a day,” he said.

Karma Dorji said that formation cutting would take four months and another few months to complete the pavement works.

“People can use the road via Dalbari in Dagana, which is under construction,” Karma Dorji said.

After two months, people can travel and tranship goods at different times when the works stop, he said.

The chief engineer also said the Chukha dzongkhag administration is exploring an alternative route.

“We have visited the site and submitted our observations to them for further submission to GNHC,” he said.

Government has approved Nu 15 million for the project.

Sonam Bja has been the biggest challenge on the Manitar-Lhamoizingkha highway since the highway opened in 2015. A large portion of the road was washed away on May 2 cutting off Lhamoidzingkha.

Roads department constructed the bailey bridge in two weeks and opened the road to traffic. But in July, heavy rains completely washed away the road at Sonam Bja.

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