An end to Norgaygang’s long isolation from the rest of Samtse hangs in the balance
With the steel parts already reaching the gewog and, if all goes as planned, villagers of Norgaygang gewog in Sipsoo dungkhag will have a new bailey bridge that would connect them to the rest of Samtse dzongkhag.
Today, the people of Norgaygang (Bara) gewog have to walk uphill for a day from Tendu in Sibsoo, and three hours for lower Bara village. Tendu is about 69km from Sibsoo, and Sibsoo is about 45km from Samtse town.
Although only the first cutting of the gewog connectivity road (GC road) is complete, connectivity would still be a problem without a bridge, say villagers.
Jaldaka river, which flows between Norgaygang and Tendu, cuts the gewog from the district. The GC road from Tendu gewog would be built until Jaldaka river bank, and the remaining part of the road continues from the other side of the bank.
Dungkhag engineer Pema Wangchen said the work for 160ft long bailey bridge will begin soon, so that it is completed before the monsoons. “If we finish building the foundation before monsoon, we can complete the bridge on time,” he said. “Otherwise, the monsoon will delay construction.”
He said construction work has been already delayed by two months, since the first survey and design was found not feasible in the area they had identified. “We had to resurvey and redesign in the new area.”
The bridge is designed for both heavy and light vehicles, with a capacity of 18MT, and funded by the government at Nu 1.7M.
Gewog administration officer, Cheku Wangchuk, said the bridge would be very beneficial to the villagers, especially during emergencies, like reaching the sick to the hospital on time.
“This is the main difficulty faced by the people today,” he said. “The bridge would also help them sell cash crops in Tendu or Samtse.”
The gewog grows cardamom and ginger in abundance, which are mostly sold in Bindu, the Indian border town in Darjeeling, West Bengal. “It’s difficult to carry the products and walk to Tendu,” he said. Villager fetch INR 28,000 for a mon (40kg) of cardamom and INR 10 for a kilogram of ginger.
However, the 16m GC road has already helped in discouraging people from going to Bindu border town, he said. “Few farmers have started taking their products to Samtse via the GC road,” he said. “But this is possible only in winter.”
About a hundred villagers are seen visiting Bindu border, especially on Thursdays, when the border opens for the vegetable market.
Gewog’s tshogpa Dil Badhur Biswa said, although it takes almost a day to reach the border, people preferred the border, since the road is not uphill like Bara. “The other reason is because we don’t get what we need in Tendu,” he said. “Whereas going to Samtse in a taxi is very expensive.”
Dil Badhur added that, because of the difficult terrain, the Bhutanese agents hardly come to buy their farm produce. The tshogpa said that going to the border is also risky, as the villagers have to spend night in the forest or in the town. “We have to pay between Nu 200 to 500 for labour as well,” he said. “We sleep inside caves or under the trees.”
These problems faced by the villagers could all be avoided after the bridge is built and connects their gewog. “Life would become better then,” he said. The gewog has 650 households under five chiwogs.
By Yangchen C Rinzin, Samtse