Should things go as planned, the widening work along the 15km Trashigang-Kanglung road will be completed by March 18 next year, according to Project DANTAK officials in Kanglung.
Since the widening work on the 22km stretch began about a decade ago, only around seven kilometres have been completed.
Commuters along the stretch have raised concerns over the slow progress of the work. Kanglung gup, Kinzang Dorji, said that the works progress is inconsistent and sluggish.
“We can see people working but the progress is slow. This hampers the commuters,” Kinzang Dorji said. He said that earlier, when the work had not started, it took around 30 minutes to reach Trashigang from Kanglung. Today, it takes almost an hour. “When there is a block due to excavation work, we are left stranded on road for almost half a day.”
The road condition worsens during summer. Two weeks ago, Karma Tashi, a taxi driver based in Trashigang had a narrow escape when a falling boulder along the stretch hit the rear wheel of his vehicle.
“The cutting work has loosened the soil causing frequent landslides,” he said. “Given an option, I would not choose to travel along this stretch especially during night in summer. But since we earn our daily bread from driving, we don’t have an option.”
A Kanglung resident said that since a majority of services are based in Trashigang, they have to travel frequently to Trashigang. “It takes us longer to get there now and damages to our vehicles are expensive.”
DANTAK officials in Kanglung said that widening work is progressing well and they should be able to meet their deadline by March next year. “If everything goes well, we should be able to complete the work even before our target,” an official said.
However, the official was unable to comment on the prolonged duration as pointed out by the residents and the gup. “We do not know what kind of challenges the previous in-charges went through. But there are challenges and execution of work at times becomes difficult. However, we have never stopped the work,” he said. “Even we face the same problems but this is the process we all have to go through.”
The officer said that since the DANTAK office in Kanglung doesn’t hold the required equipment to lay the blacktop, blacktopping work along the 15km road has been tendered out to an Indian contractor in Arunachal Pradesh.
According to the official, the contractor was held by the immigration department in Samdrupjongkhar. “Because of such issues the work gets delayed.” Some three kilometre of the total 15, he said, is ready for blacktopping. “Remaining cutting work is completed. We should be able to meet our deadline.”
Meanwhile, Kinzang Dorji said that the widening work has also caused damage to some of the irrigation channels in the gewog. He said that since a new commanding officer takes over the project every two years, the newly assigned officers do not take responsibility of the errors.
After Project DANKAT refused to take liability of the destroyed irrigation channel, Kinzang Dorji said that the gewog procured pipes worth Nu 0.5 million to repair the irrigation source that was damaged during the widening work.
However, DANTAK officials said that upon investigation, the irrigation channel was not damaged due to their work. “We have agreed to construct irrigation channels wherever required based on the requisition submitted by the dzongkhag administration,” said the official.
Project DANTAK has employed some 300 workers at the site of which about 200 were employed recently.
Younten Tshedup| Kanglung