Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing
Traffic congestion in Phuentsholing has not improved. The problem aggravates from the mid-autumn and continues until March.
Long vehicle queues have now become a regular scene in the border town.
Currently, the construction of the footpath at Gadoe Lam is one of the reasons for congestion. Two road links are being developed with better drainage system, blocking vehicles passing through.
The contractor still has seven-some months to complete the project.
The growing development activities and the shrinking town space are the leading causes of congestion, officials say.
Although Phuentsholing Thromde has 11 Local Area Plan (LAP) for development activities, many are yet to be taken up. Then there are rapid development activities within the existing town.
Phuentsholing Thrompon Uttar Kumar Rai said SASEC’s northern bypass (NBR), a mega project, was just in the middle of the town.
“Phuentsholing township development project is another important project happening at present,” he said, adding dumper trucks carrying boulders from Toorsa further worsened the problem in the town.
He said that majority of potato harvest from across the country arrived in Phuentsholing bringing in more trucks in the town.
Indian trucks heading to Pasakha industrial estate is another major problem Phuentsholing faces.
As per the records maintained by Association of Bhutanese Industries (ABI), more than 2,300 trucks enter Phuentsholing and more than 860 trucks leave the town using the same route in the town in a month.
This figure is from just 11 industries in Pasakha, according to ABI report. There are 38 industries in Pasakha.
The main concern with the Indian trucks is that they are mostly old and overloaded, which are often seen stuck on the road, disturbing the traffic.
This year, the Indian trucks have hit the Phuentsholing police post (near the Druk Punjab National Bank) about eight times so far. Instances of trucks hitting and damaging the bank’s wall have also been reported.
The business representative in the town, Losang Tshering, said the traffic congestion was due to the same entry and exit point for heavy vehicles at the main gate.
He said that the location of the customs office and port in the middle of the town also caused congestion. Trailers and trucks always got stuck at one point and caused traffic distress, he added.
However, the traffic disruption in the recent times happened due to the boulder carrying trucks, the business representative said. The mini dry port, which was completed in beginning of this year, is yet to be used, should ease the traffic congestion, he added.
The town’s officer commanding with RBP, Major Gyeltshen, said the growing number of regional tourists added to the traffic distress.
“People don’t use pedestrian crossings and walk in the middle of the roads,” he said.
While the number of vehicles is also increasing every year, Major Gyeltshen said that infrastructure for better traffic was necessary. There is need for wider roads and overpasses.
Conducting seminar, training, and workshops in Phuentsholing during winter increased number of vehicles, which also caused congestion in the town, officials from thromde and RBP said.
Relief and solution
Thrompon Uttar Kumar Rai said that the trucks exporting boulder should be monitored properly.
“Industrial (Indian) trucks need monitoring too,” he said, adding that only those trucks in good condition should be allowed to enter Phuentsholing to avoid breakdowns.
Thromde is working towards improving pedestrian roads, which according to him would encourage people to keep their cars at home. The SASEC projects, which are meant to ease congestion, should be completed, the thrompon said.
There are several SASEC projects in Phuentsholing. NBR has two packages, the development of a four-lane 2.7km road and construction of a 120-metre bridge over Omchhu. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is funding Nu 444.5 millions (M) for these projects as grant.
Under Package-I, the four-lane road is currently being constructed from the second gate. It will connect the new bridge over Omchhu. The road runs along the RSTA building and connects the bridge at the RBA curve.
However, both the projects have been delayed by monsoon this year. The four-lane road is expected to complete early next year.
Other three SASEC projects, which are all aimed at easing the congestion, are in Pasakha. A 123-metre pre-stressed concrete connecting girder bridge over Bhalujhora was completed in July. Construction Development Corporation Limited (CDCL) constructed the bridge at Nu 77.2M.
A 50-metre multicellular culvert box bridge over Baunijhora was also completed in May this year. However, the bridge could not stand the monsoon and Pasakha remained cut off on several occasions when flashfloods obstructed the bridge. A gabion wall constructed above this bridge also could not withstand the flashfloods.
All these infrastructures were supposed to connect a land customs station at Allay, Pasakha and divert industrial trucks from Bibarey, India, without having to come to Phuentsholing. However, the station has been deferred after the flood risks.
The mini dry port that was completed in March this year would also accommodate customs bound trucks and ease traffic. But the port would be used only after the completion of NBR.
Although it may take some time, better traffic days was not far, a businessman, Sonam Tshewang said.
He said traffic police in Phuentsholing had done a commendable job. Even people from across the border strictly follow the traffic rules in Phuengtsholing, he added.