Neten Dorji

Trashigang—The residents of Sakteng are disappointed that the blacktopping work on the Sakteng gewog connectivity (GC) roads has not been completed even after a year of missing the deadline.

The highlanders were even more frustrated as neither the dzongkhag nor the gewog administration was willing to tell them why the work was delayed, while the contractor of the work kept missing deadlines.

The blacktopping work from Dogorom to Sonadrang, spanning 31 km, was awarded to the contractor in a single package valued approximately at Nu 91.38 million. However, the blacktopping work was delayed due to the outbreak of Coivd-19 pandemic.

Sakteng Gup, Tshewang Tshering, said the road improvement will benefit about 260 households in Sakteng Gewog, and the parts of Bidung and Phongemy gewogs. 

Sakteng Gewog was connected with a motorable road in 2018, positively transforming the community. There are more than 30 Bolero pickups today in the community, among other vehicles.

“In the past, the poor condition of the road during monsoon made it difficult to take our products to the market, and the transportation cost was high,” said Dorji Wangdi, a 66-year-old resident of Sakteng.

Without the blacktopped road, vehicles found it difficult to travel during the monsoon season. The well-maintained road with GSB and blacktopping will benefit the residents in the gewog with a clean and safe environment to work, travel, and live in, a highlander said. 

“The accessibility to markets is now more realistic for my people, but we are worried about work progress,” Gup Tshewang Tshering said. “The travel time would be reduced by half which means it will now take only two hours to transport their produce to Trashigang market.”

The update on the work progress was that the base course had been completed, and all the raw materials, including the aggregates and bitumen, were at the site. However, the completed portion of the work was bemoaned of poor quality.

A highlander Pema Dorji said gravel has already come out of the road between Sonadrang and Yadrang area although it’s been only a few months after the blacktopping work was carried out.

“The work is poorly done and the contractor should redo the work. We do not know the standards, but ordinary people like us know it is of poor quality.”

He said they have approached local leaders to maintain quality by the contractor.  “The quality of the road should be monitored,” he said. 

Mangmi Dema Tshering said the gewog administration would wait and see the situation of the road for some time.

“We haven’t reported the matter to any relevant authority expecting the contractor would hand it over to us in good condition. But if the road is in a condition that requires maintenance, we will not be taking over the road,” he said.

According to dzongkhag officials, the blacktopping work was scheduled to be completed by the end of February 2024. However, they were in doubt if the deadline would be met given the slow work progress.  

 “We are visiting the site to monitor the quality of blacktopping work,” an official said. 

Meanwhile, given their unique semi-nomadic lifestyle, culture, and scenic valleys, the smooth road was expected to facilitate an increasing number of visitors to the exotic Sakteng.