… the bridge over Mauchhu has remained a dream

Lhakpa Quendren

Gelephu – The failure to build the Mauchhu bridge in Gelephu despite promises from the past three governments shows how not keeping political commitments has made people lose trust in politicians. This highlights the significant impact unfulfilled promises have on public confidence.

Despite the waning of their hopes, the Mauchhu bridge was expected to be a priority this time, as in past elections. However, people were surprised to find that no political parties had made pledges this time around.

A resident of Chhuzangang said that candidates are cautious about promising to build the bridge this time because they are concerned that such unrealistic promises could lead to a loss of votes. “They shouldn’t make promises they cannot keep just to sway the voters.”

Villagers collect locally available materials like bamboo, rocks, and timber to construct the bridge last week

“We have always expected the government to fulfil its pledge of building the bridge. I think now they have realised that finding a solution for the bridge is not easy,” she said.

Villagers said that the people’s dream of having a motorable bridge over the river from the elected government has now faded.

“When it comes to Gelephu or Sarpang, the pledge to build the bridge was always mentioned in the past. Without this promise their debates and conversations seemed to be incomplete,” said another resident.

Given the past failures, attracting voters with promises would be challenging, said villagers. Many people have already decided on which party to vote for in this election without even considering any pledges.

A resident of Sershong said that he finds it hard to believe in political commitments. He added that political pledges, even if reviewed by the election commission, are unrealistic. “Many big promises went unfulfilled, and some took years to materialize.”

With no permanent solution for Mauchhu, like every year, over 100 villagers of Chhuzangang have once again come together to construct another temporary bridge over the river, only to disappear with the onset of the following monsoon. As the river subsides, they have to contribute two-day labour for this annual event.

The completion of a temporary bamboo bridge has brought a huge relief to the residents of Chhuzangang and Sershong, as well as the Umling and Tareythang gewogs. With the bridge, Chhuzangang is about a 40-minute walk from Gelephu.

The four gewogs on the other side of the river depend on Gelephu for everything, including medical check-ups and buying essentials. However, not everyone can afford to hire taxis every time they need to travel to Gelephu.

Manarat from Chhuzangang said that travelling is expensive and takes a longer route. “When I return with heavy loads, I take a taxi. Otherwise, I prefer walking. Many residents prefer walking over driving or taking taxis.”

During the summer, this principal river, joined by numerous tributaries along its course until it reaches the border, descends from the mountains with great force and splendour. Legend has it that the river has claimed people’s lives every summer in the past years.

In December 2019, the former Ministry of Works and Human Settlement issued a notification inviting Bhutanese consultancy firms to conduct a detailed investigation and design of the Maochhu bridge.

The last government allocated Nu 400 million for the construction of the bridge in the 12th Plan, which had an estimated cost of Nu 900 million. However, due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, the budget was re-prioritised.

People are uncertain about whether the upcoming government will build the bridge or not. However, many are now hopeful about the upcoming megacity project, which could bring a permanent bridge over the river and connect it to the rest of Gelephu and beyond.

It was learnt that the plan for the construction of a four-lane bridge over the Maochhu is still in the discussion phase. The Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport (MoIT) said that the project has not been finalised yet.