Tshering Namgyal | Mongar

Residents of Konbar, Takchu, and Mongar are asking who will repair their road damaged by surface collection of stones and boulders.

Villagers claimed they were not consulted when officials approved the stone collection site at lower Wengkhar along the road to Issup Construction for Mongar town development.

A villager from Konbar, Kinley, said a landslide washed away the road a few months ago during monsoon and they remained cut off for almost a week.

He said a group of about 15 villagers from Konbar and Takchu chiwog in Mongar gewog cleared the road temporarily. “Later, the contractor also maintained the road temporarily.”

Kinley said villagers expected the contractor to construct a permanent wall. “It’s been a decade since the road was constructed and nothing further has been done until the extraction work began. We want to prevent future damages.”

A local resident and driver, Karma Wangchuk, said he saw a crack develop along the road when an approaching road was constructed. He informed the gewog and tshogpa three to four times with photographs as evidence, but no action was taken.

He said the contractor has not only collected from the surface but has excavated the area, which damaged the road. “Officials are not concerned about the damage as they are not personally impacted.”

He said although they do not have a technical capacity, they fear the extraction work might cause more slides in the future.

Mongar dzongkhag environment officer, Tshering Dekar, said the Forestry Division is the competent authority.

Officials from the divisional forestry office said the division approved the extraction site following the dzongkhag’s work order, environment clearance, and Natural Resource Development Corporation’s (NRDCL) inability to supply stone to the contractor. There was no objection letter from the gewog.

Mongar divisional chief forestry officer, Karma Tempa, said the site was approved based on the documents from concerned agencies and also in the interest of the urgency of the work and purely for surface collection. “The work was regularly monitored by the forest officials and the contractor was made to collect only deposits of stone slips from the earlier road construction.”

He said the contractor had extracted some stones, but from the other side and not in the current area, and he was penalised Nu 30,000 for five truckloads.

Forestry officials deny that construction of an approaching road and excavation of boulders caused the road damage. “The road damage was triggered by the blocked water from the landslide near Wengkhar Agriculture Research and Development Centre area, as the water clogged along the drain,” a forestry official said.

Mongar gup Tenzin Wangchuk said the gewog issued no objection letter, based on the approval from the dzongkhag administration, given the importance of work.

He said they did not consult the public because the guidelines don’t require them to do so. “The road damage was not caused by the stone surface collection work, but by the monsoon rain.”

Meanwhile, Konbar-Takchhu tshogpa Tashi Wangmo said the public is concerned about how stable the road would remain in the upcoming monsoons. “I have reminded the gewog and the contractor to restore it with permanent walls several times, but nothing has been done so far. When asking forestry officials, we have been told the contractor is supposed to maintain the road, but there has been no action.”

She said she is planning to appeal to the dzongkhag administration soon if nothing is done, adding that road not only benefits Konbar and Takchhu villages, but also part of Chali, Wengkhar, and Themnangbi villages. Besides, the road was once constructed as a bypass for Mongar-Lhuentse highway and could be used as an alternative route in future.

Edited by Tashi Dema