For almost 57 years, the farm road towards Rangshikhar goenpa in Trashigang has not seen any major maintenance.

Project DANTAK constructed the first 8km road in 1962. It was the first farm road in the dzongkhag then. Another 5km was constructed privately from the lhakhang until the goenpa 15 years ago.

Rangshikhar-Serdang chiwog tshogpa, Dorji Wangchuk, said that with no proper maintenance, the road is becoming unpliable every year. “The condition worsens during monsoon as rainwater washes away the soils, forming large potholes.”

It was learnt that until 2006, the road was under project DANTAK. In 2007, the road was handed over to the Department of Roads (DoR) by the then Trashigang dzongdag Minjur Dorji.

The tshogpa said that after the road was handed over to the DoR, the department deployed a few workers to carry out regular maintenance along the stretch.

“We have requested DoR and dzongkhag administration on several occasions to help us blacktop the road or at least provide with a proper base course but our requests remain unheard so far,” Dorji Wangchuk said.

He said that the first two governments pledged to blacktop the road during their campaigns. “Even this time the new government has promised to provide a blacktop,” said the tshogpa. “We are all hopeful that the new government would keep their promise.”

A resident, Tobgay, said, along with him some people of Pam and Rangshikar cleared an additional 5km road.

The 70-year-old said that people from across the country including tourists come to visit the Rangshikhar Rinpoche and poor road condition deterred many from visiting again. “Patients who wish to see the Rinpoche are carried on the back because small vehicles cannot ply the road in monsoon.”

He said that despite requesting ministers and other party officials of the two previous governments, the road condition has remained the same until today. “They were the ones to promise in the beginning but at the end of 10 years, the road condition has not improved at all.”

Another resident, Sangay, said that all political parties have promised to blacktop the road since 2008. “I’m not sure if this new government would deliver what it has promised. The last two governments failed to keep their promises.”

He said blacktopping the road would benefit the residents and people visiting the goenpa.

Dorji Wangchuk said that DoR has conducted studies to provide blacktop in 2016 and 2017. However, due to lack of budget, the work could not materialise. “If blacktop was too expensive, even a proper base course along the whole stretch would help the people a lot.”

DoR officials were not available for comment.

It takes almost two hours to reach Rangshikhar goenpa (13km) from the Trashigang-Samdrupjongkhar highway junction in Pam. If blacktopped, the travel time is expected to be reduced by more an hour.

Commuters travelling to the goenpa from Trashigang (18km) are charged Nu 1,000 for reserving a bolero pick up. “The charge used to be Nu 800 a few years ago,” said Dorji Wangchuk. “There are not many taxies going to Rangshikar so we have to reserve the vehicle,” he added.

Younten Tshedup | Trashigang