The shortfall is almost by half and is only likely to grow in years to come
Road Network: While the road network is expanding every year, its quality remains a question, since revenue collected from end-users does not cover even half the maintenance cost, going by the records with the Road Safety and Transport Authority and the Department of Roads.
The authority ranks as one of the top revenue collecting agencies in the country, yet its collection cannot meet road maintenance costs.
According to records of the department of roads (DoR), which is responsible for maintaining and developing roads, it spent Nu 460.98M on road maintenance, against a revenue collection of Nu 273.994M collected by RSTA that enforces various transport rules, and collected revenue from road users in the last fiscal year.
DoR spent Nu 131.96M on routine road maintenance, Nu 94.21M on restoration of roads damaged by the monsoon, Nu 3.07M on bridge maintenance, and Nu 232.48M for resurfacing roads at various locations.
Besides, RSTA also spent Nu 15.3M on various activities, such as awareness programmes, bus terminal construction, procurement of ICT and traffic safety equipment in 2011-12. This excludes current expenses made on office management, salaries and allowances paid for the employees of the authority.
The revenue collected by RSTA thus falls short by Nu 202.29M in the last fiscal year.
“Revenue collected by RSTA alone can’t cover maintenance cost at all,” Tshering Wangdi, a chief engineer with DoR, said.
He said the budget for annual maintenance of a kilometre of primary national highway is Nu 75,000; Nu 60,000 for secondary highways; and Nu 35,000 for dzongkhag roads in the past four years of the 10th five-year plan. “For this fiscal year, the budget has been increased to Nu 86,000, Nu 80,000 and Nu 45,000 respectively,” he said.
Going by these figures, the maintenance cost for primary national highways in the current fiscal will be Nu151.78M for 1,757.19km of primary national highways. It will be around Nu41.30M for 516.35km of secondary highways, and around Nu 50.71M for 1127km of dzongkhag roads.
Resurfacing of roads is done every five to six years, and will cost about Nu 1.20M a km, according to the engineer. “There’s no budget for maintenance of other farm and feeder roads,” the chief engineer said.
Road maintenance work includes all sort of repair work from potholes, whitewashing, drainage cleaning, structure repairing, culvert repairing to jungle clearing, according to the engineer.
As of June last year, Bhutan had a total of 8381.6km of roads, consisting of national highways, dzongkhag roads, farm and feeder roads and power tiller tracks.
The 67km Shingkhar-Gorgan road, the 30.12km Dorokha-Denchukha farm road with a bridge, the 38.66km Jomotsangkha-Lauri farm road with a bridge, the 35.5km Toribari-Dovan farm road with a bridge, and the 51km Tingkarbi-Silambi farm road with 2 bridges are new constructions to be completed in the current five year plan.
“Whoever supports the new construction won’t stay on for maintenance,” DoR chief engineer Tshering Wangdi said.
By Samten Yeshi