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Shingkhar-Gorgan highway given thumbs-up

New agriculture minister approves previous govt.’s plan despite environmental concerns

Road: People of Lhuentse could see their long held dream, the 67km Shingkhar-Gorgan highway that runs through a core tiger habitat at Thrumshingla park come through, as the newly elected agriculture minister commits to back the plan.

“I’ve gone through the environment impact assessment conducted by the previous government and there weren’t many problems,” agriculture minister, Yeshey Dorji, said.

Moreover, he said, there remained a few kilometres for fresh cutting, only about 25km, because a farm road has been constructed until Pelphug, from Lhuentse.

“And there’s a road from Shingkhar earlier used for logging,” the minister said.

The ministry of works and human settlement proposed the road in the 11th five-year plan.

“It’s now up to Parliament to decide whether it should go through or not,” department of roads director, Karma Galay, said.

If constructed, the road, which would cost government about Nu 890M, is expected to reduce distance by 100km from Shingkhar, Ura (Bumthang) and Gorgan in Lhuentse.  The journey to Mongar decreases by 30km.

Works to realign the Bumthang-Lhuentse highway on the lateral route, to cut travelling time by three hours was decided in March during Lhuentse’s mid term review.  The road was already in the list of 10th plan activities.

The alignment would run along the Shingmala pass, which is at more than 4,000m, with six hairpin bends and then descend towards Pelphu Goenpa and Zhongme village in Lhuentse.

Feasibility studies in 2006 and 2010 found that the road passes through unstable soil condition, which could be prone to erosions and landslides.  Given these and the weather conditions, completion of the construction could take about four years.

However, conservationists have maintained that, if the road construction comes through, it would be in violation to the nature and forest conservation rule, 2006, which does not permit any kind of construction within the core area.

Bhutan being signatory to many international conventions, constructing the road in a core zone would undermine Bhutan’s environmental image.

The agriculture minister said that the other parks in the country have roads passing through them too, and that the road would benefit not just Lhuentse district, but the whole of the eastern region.

The road has been proposed for a long time, and was last discussed in the 84th session of the then National Assembly in 2007, which resolved that the road must be included in the 10th Plan.  It is said the previous government, for shortage of budget, could not implement the project.

Lhuentse dzongda, Sonam Wangyal, said that the dzongkhag is hopeful the works and human settlement ministry takes up the work during this plan.

By Tshering Palden

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  1. Mr. Hel, wat u say is absolutely right.

  2. “I’ve gone through the environment impact assessment conducted by the previous government and there weren’t many problems,” agriculture minister, Yeshey Dorji, said.

    What problems would Lyonpo when you have countless of ambitious promises to meet. I wonder if Lyonpo really studied the assessment report because it was the hottest debated topic during the panel discussion on BBS. All PhD environmentalists were against the road but the previous government known for bull-dozering, pushed it. And now PDP, having promised people wont find any wrong here.

  3. No international cudos to be won over this one. Wait till some international wildlife agency has “Bhutan builds road through last remaining tiger breeding habitat” on the front page of the NY Times — so much for eco-tourism….

  4. I think before giving thumps up to proposed highway between shinkhar and gorgan, several things must be considered:

    1. Is this highway really necessary? What would be traffic flow and what percentage of eastern Bhutan will benefit from this highway?
    2. Will the road be pliable during winter season when most part of this stretch is covered with snow and ice, and maintaining it for traffic will drain the alreadfy limited budget of DOR?
    3. At present, DOR is stretched to its limit in terms of manpower and finance even to maintain existing highway between Bumtha and Mongar, because this stretch of highway is prone to slide as soil in most parts are loose and when snow falls everything falls apart.
    4. The proposed road falls in core protected areas of Thrumgsila national Park; making road in core protected area is a direct violation of international conventions to which Bhutan is a signatory. If ever Bhutan wants this road then we may have to face the wrath of international communities who fund most of conservation related works and projects in Bhutan.
    5. I think for eastern Bhutan the best approach is make Nanglam Gelposhing highway traffic proof throughout 365 days in a year and make the highway a lifeline for eastern Dzongkhags, especially for Lhuntse and Mongar. This is doable as the highway is almost nearing completion.
    6. My request to the present government is that development priority should not be based of political expediency but be based on sound economic rational and necessity. In this way, we can maximise utilization of already scarce financial resources in the country.

    Cheers and may common sense prevail

  5. It’s really difficult to read politician’s minds. While serving in opposition role, we all heard Dasho Damchoe speaking very clearly against this road between Shinkhar and Gorgan. He said that it’s much better and wiser to widen the existing road between Bumthang and Mongar instead of constructing new one. He accused the previous government of unnecessarily spending on new roads which would only disturb the natural parks. However, now being in the government, the road is approved without any reservations. So, what I wonder most is that opposition MPs are ready to oppose anything even if it is not in one’s interest.

  6. so so,
    What I meant to say is that DPT did many good things in the face of some needless oppositions as against this road project. But they thought the opposition was only two persons outside of the DPT in the form of PDP. There was some more oppositions the DPT unjustly overcame: the oppositions faced in their own conscience about failing to deliver justice to large mass of trampled Bhutanese. That could be overcome by taking their cases seriously and advocating their causes to higher power for right action. If this part was addressed, others were already right despite formal opposition raised for name’s sake.
    DPT’s power would not be dreaded as authority that sets adversity on the way…

  7. Logical,

    I don’t know what you are going on all about, it was DPT who proposed this highway and PDP that was against it. Now PDP also seem to favor the same plan which the DPT was criticized for.

  8. DPT went gay wearing the sepulcher of GNH, dancing without conscience to the problems and pains of the Bhutanese inflicted through national institutions. As the saying goes: a dead fly causes the apothecary to stink, so went with DPT that made itself insanely separate from the Bhutanese whom they failed to serve with justice. Much good they did in other areas was overshadowed by the dragging power of evil they underestimated and neglected. Long live PDP with the pledges, even if 50% of them are fulfilled. PDP is not anti-DPT in areas where their plans and input was positive for the nation. DPT seems to treat PDP otherwise, accusing them with grievous charges…

    Their priority should be to solve the trauma the large number of Bhutanese suffer that DPT neglected to address knowingly. Count them where they belong and encourage them to contribute to nation building, for happiness. We do not want much development now above the social stability, making more enemies in the neighbourhood through bold, discriminatory policies encouraging the rift that began from 1985 from uncertain quarter…. Infrastructural development can always take place at leisure.

  9. This is the what great Leaders leave behind. Lyonchoen Jigme Yoezer Thrinley was victimized for doing good by branding him and DPT negatively. but this is what he has left. DPT wants to INVEST for the country but PDP wants to SPEND for the country.

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