… but acknowledges it could be better

Infrastructure: Martshala gewog in Samdrupcholing dungkhag had one of the worst gewog connectivity (GC) roads for years. However, following its blacktopping this year, many in the gewog enjoy better access to markets for their products and to shop.

The gewog today also has the highest number of Bolero utility vehicles in the dungkhag. The gewog has around 40 Boleros today, according to the villagers.

Villagers travel to Samdrupcholing to market their cash crops and buy basic necessities.

However, during the works and human settlement minister Dorji Choden’s visit to the gewog on January 18, villagers asked if the 13km road could be blacktopped all the way until the gewog centre and Central School.

The villagers also pointed out to the minister that it has not even been a year since the road was blacktopped but the surface has already started disintegrating in some areas. They blamed the quality of the bitumen and the monsoon.

Martshala’s GC road was the second in the country to be blacktopped after Bartsham gewog’s in Trashigang last year.

While the minister, who was in the gewog to check on the GC road, complimented the completion of the blacktopping, she still pointed out that “it could be better” and asked that the drains be improved as soon as possible.

Talking to the villagers, Lyonpo Dorji Choden said she had purposely come to check the GC road after receiving several informal complaints on its condition.

“I was told that the road was in bad condition and people were not happy, which worried us. But after checking the road, I personally found it to be well constructed except for the drains that need improvement.”

However, Lyonpo reminded the people that most of the roads, which pass by paddy fields and settlements, were the areas that are often damaged because of running water on the road, landslides and other activities.

“We should cooperate and be responsible to take care of the road,” she said, adding they would make sure the drains are improved soon so that the bitumen is not damaged and would last for the next five years at least.

Lyonpo Dorji Choden said the increase in the number of vehicles was a sign of development in the gewog. “Please understand that construction of a road is a huge expenditure yet we’re still trying to construct the road wherever needed,” she said.

Meanwhile, a regional roads department official said the contract is still under the defect liability period and the surface is being repaired where ever needed by the contractor.

The official added the road was not blacktopped until the gewog centre because the road was not stable and some parts were too narrow and required further cutting. “But most of the villagers were not willing to give away their land since the expansion would cross their land. Until they agree to give their land, we cannot blacktop the road.”

The GC road, constructed in 2008 serves 23 villages and about 664 households providing access to commercial and service centres like basic health units and schools.

Yangchen C Rinzin |  Samdrupcholing