The Ministry of Works and Human Settlement (MoWHS) will meet with DANTAK to discuss its use of Geo-synthetics Reinforced Walls (GRW) between the Paro and Chhuzom highway to contain landslides.

The ministry has also raised concerns pertaining to the aesthetic aspect of the new technology. GRW was introduced as a substitute to the conventional stone masonry breast wall.

GRW was first constructed along the Thimphu-Paro highway. The GRW has also been used on the road stretch between Paro and Drukgyal Dzong. GRW was adopted to reduce construction time and overcome scarcity of construction materials.

MoWHS minister Dorji Choden said that the project and the ministry are going to meet to discuss the new technology. Though the ministry wrote to the project to make a presentation on GRW, the moment the ministry saw its construction along the Paro highway, the two agencies could not meet unable to agree on a meeting date.

“We are awaiting to come to an agreement on a mutually agreed date for the meeting,” Lyonpo Dorji Choden said.

The letter dated September 14, 2016, from the ministry to the project, stated that while GRW must have its advantages the public are not convinced by the new technology. “Many commented that the walls do not look like a wall,” stated the letter.

Paro Dzongkhag Tshogdu’s chairperson, Tshering Dorji, said that though people have not submitted any written petition concerning GRW, sustainability is a concern. “Some of the walls can be seen sliding away from its original position towards the road,” Tshering Dorji said.

He also expects DANTAK to construct a permanent wall rather than a GRW to mitigate landslides and erosion on fragile slopes.

The ministry also wrote in its letter that the Department of Roads as the technical agency responsible for the construction of roads also found the GRW walls out of place and unappealing. As far as DoR is concerned, going by the physical outlook of GRW, it is neither sustainable nor aesthetic and eco-friendly. “If it’s giving in within a few months of its construction, how is it going to be sustainable,” DoR director Karma Galay said.

Other officials from the ministry felt that digging up the slopes to construct GRWs would further escalate sliding on the fragile slopes.

DoR design division chief engineer, Lungten Jamtsho, said that the department is unaware of the new technology. “We do not know if the new technology is structurally sound since the department has not studied it before,” Lungten Jamtsho said.

However, if GRW is found to be cost-effective and environment-friendly, DoR would also be keen to take up the new technology.

Project DANTAK refused to comment on the use of GRWs.

Tempa Wangdi