Ugly road to beautiful Phobjikha

Two gewogs request to handover GC road to DoR

Yangchen C Rinzin

Phobjikha is a beautiful valley. Getting there is the ugly part.

The tourist hotspot known for the endangered black necked cranes and the vast valley with homestays is not what visitors see these days. The first sight is the pothole-ridden gewog road. The blacktop has worn out and the entire stretch from Gangtey Lhakhang junction in Gantey gewog till Phobjikha gewog is in a bad state.

road

Residents frequently sprinkle water to reduce dust

The condition of the 15km road, according to villagers, started deteriorating since 2017 although the road was blacktopped twice. The conditions have worsened today. If it is marshy in summer, it is dusty in winter.

The road, villagers said, worsened because of the increase in the transportation of carrying construction materials and tourists vehicles. Residents also frequently sprinkle water to reduce dust that settles on roofs, vegetable garden or trees along the road.

A villager, Lhakya who lives below the road said the road is worse than a farm road. “It’s disappointing when our village is known as a tourist destination,” she said. Without improvement despite several complaints, gups of two gewogs submitted a letter to the Wangdue dzongkhag administration last week as a last resort.

Gewog administrations of both gewogs have requested to submit their request to the government to either hand over the GC roads to the Department of Roads (DoR) or either allocate additional budget for maintenance and a permanent fix.

Gangtey gup Gyeltshen said that the only budget they get was Nu 30,000 a kilometre for maintenance of work in a year, which is not adequate given the condition of roads. “The budget is actually the wages for labourers who clean and fill up potholes when necessary,” gup said. “The government must increase the budget, or there is a need for major reconstruction of the road.”

Villagers agree the road condition was better when with the DoR as potholes were filled several times even if it was not blacktopped. “We’re now giving up on this road. The only hope is our elected members of Parliament will take forward this issue,” Tshering Gyeltshen, a farmer said.

However, the gewog administration was informed that the letter must route through dzongkhag tshogdu (DT). Gup Gyeltshen said that the DT has already occurred and they were late in submitting the letter.

Gup Gyeltshen added that Phobjikha being a tourist destination, Tourism Council of Bhutan often asks both gewogs to maintain roads. “What can we do without enough budget. The expenditure has increased over the years, and we’re helpless.”

Wangdue dzongkhag’s planning officer Passang Dorji said the dzongkhag administration is yet to decide on the letter submitted by two gewogs.

However, he said that following reprioritisation of the 12th Plan, the dzongkhag administration will explore provision to prioritise these roads next year and allocate budget to blacktop again.

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