It was a hot sunny day in Phuentsholing on June 27. Ram Bahadur Pakhrin from Tading in Samtse is crossing the Amochu.
Carrying a 30kg load on his back, he uses the suspension bridge to cross over.
Ram Bahadur Pakhrin looks forward to cross the Amochhu at Purbey in Phuentsholing on the bridge that is being constructed.
He has been waiting for more than eight years now.
Purbey, nine kilometres away from Phuentsholing, is the point that would link Phuentsholing and Samtse via the internal road. The other side of Purbey is Samtse’s Tading gewog.
While residents like Ram Bahadur Pakhrin wait for the bridge to complete, the bridge construction has failed to meet several deadlines. Its completion date is still not scheduled.
A bolero driver, Sher Bahadur Bhujel, who is also from Panbari in Tading said having a bridge over Amochhu bridge, would ease life for them. Samtse is 58 km from Purbey.
“It would also be easy for us to travel and bring the sick to Phuentsholing,” he said.
Sher Bahadur Bhujel also said that it has been about nine years since the bridge construction began.
“My father worked in the construction of the suspension bridge over Amochhu many years ago,” he said, adding that the suspension bridge was completed in a month’s time.
Once complete, Amochhu bridge is also expected to attract people from Dorokha, Dumtey, and Denchukha. Drive time from Halhaley, the common point between Samtse and Phuentsholing is shorter towards Purbey than towards Samtse.
Drivers say it takes 40 minutes to reach Phuentsholing from Halhaley, while it is an hour’s drive to Samtse.
The Department of Roads (DoR) in Phuentsholing region had terminated Gaseb Construction and its Nepal based joint venture (JV) partner Kalika Construction for failing to meet the deadline. It was the second termination since the bridge construction started in April 2009.
Bhutan Builders and its India-based JV partner DK Engineering & Construction private limited executed the work initially. The contractors were terminated 30 months after the work was awarded for failing to complete 50 percent of the work target in the stipulated time.
Locals say that the media reported claiming that the bridge construction would complete in August this year but there was no progress at the site.
A villager, Bhimlal Moktan, said the government has provided many amenities for rural development but without the completion of the bridge on time, they could not reap the full benefit. “I don’t know why it is taking so long.”
The 175-metre long semi-through type steel arch Amochu bridge was first scheduled to complete in September 2011. In 2014, the bridge made a breakthrough as its arch erection completed but a flood in July 2015 caused a major damage to the construction and a loss of about Nu 10M.
Once complete, the bridge will be the longest permanent (concrete) bridge in the country and will link the 58km Phuentsholing-Samtse highway.
DoR officials confirmed that a minor glitch was seen on the Samtse side of the bridge end and said works for the rectification has been awarded.
Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing