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Bridge over the river Bhalujhora

Connectivity: Pasakha. Little has remained of the bright beginning. Now the dark and ominous clouds are gathering in the sky. Four o’clock, evening.

At the bridge at Bhalujhora are two policemen, one on either side. They are here for a special mission, to control traffic on the Pasakha-Manitar road.

“Light vehicle only, one vehicle at a time” reads a signboard at the far end of the bridge. Yes, vehicles are allowed to pass only one at a time.

Ugyen Wangchuk, one of the policemen, said the bridge plays a critical role. And it does, sure enough.

The Pasakha-Manitar road is an important alternative route for travellers between Phuentsholing and Thimphu. The old bridge, which was damaged in the recent flood, has become all the more important. Essential supplies will not reach Thimphu without this bridge and this route.

More than 2,000 vehicles passed since this bridge was repaired and the route opened on Thursday.

“It is a 24-hour duty,” Ugyen Wangchuk said. “We have to monitor this bridge.”

The bypass, however, is scarred with small blocks here and there. At 3am yesterday, police and other officials escorted more than 100 vehicles to Phuentsholing through the blocks.

The police here get little rest. By six in the morning, they have to begin monitoring the bridge again. However, without rain for the last three days, the bridge has held strong.

Only light vehicles are allowed to ply over the bridge. Heavy-duty trucks and other vehicles must take the river way.

Bus passengers get out and walk to the other end of the bridge to ease pressure on the bridge.

“We don’t know until what time we will have to stay here tonight,” said Taojey, Ugyen Wangchuk’s friend. “But this is the best we can do for the people.”

Taojey and Ugyen Wangchuk have been controlling traffic at the bridge since 6am yesterday. They are tired, but they don’t show it.

The bridge was constructed in 1986. Until a few years ago, heavy vehicles used this bridge to get to the industrial estate of Pasakha. It weakened over the years and only light vehicles were allowed to ply on it.

The recent flood damaged the bridge’s deck slabs and the rising water level weakened its base.

An official from the Department of Roads said that the river had to be diverted.

As construction of Bailey bridge at Kamji is yet to be completed, the bridge at Bhalujhora is the only lifeline between Phuentsholing and Thimphu.

Rain has begun to beat the earth again.  Taojey and Ugyen Wangchuk are not at all daunted. They are on their feet, controlling the traffic, letting vehicles pass, one at a time.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing 

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