The government is trying to push the construction of the 67km Shingkhar-Gorgan highway, which will pass through the core Thrumshingla National Park area either from Lhuntse or Bumthang by end of the term, according to the agriculture minister, Yeshey Dorji.
With recent news on the inability of the project to clear the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) since the requirements of the National Environment Commission (NEC) could not be met, Lyonpo said if NEC is not satisfied with the earlier report submitted, the ministry will work on it further.
In fact, the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement (MoWHS) is already working on the report. The reassessed report will be submitted to the NEC secretariat soon.
Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said though there are hiccups in the road construction, the law and NEC’s decision should be respected.
“We will find a middle path for this problem. We will follow the rules but still look into the matter,” Lyonpo added.
However, the forest clearance has been issued and MoWHS has been asked to find alternatives in addition to fulfilling NEC’s requirements.
Lyonpo also mentioned that the Shingkhar-Gorgon road is a classic example of how serious the government is about the environment.
In an interview with Business Bhutan, works and human settlement minister Lyonpo Dorji Choden said that they are still having a dialogue with NEC and the agriculture ministry. “The road clearance is still under review,” she said.
Member of National Council from Lhuntse, Tempa Dorji posted on Facebook questioning if the government is serious about the “much hyped balanced development.”
“The benefit the whole eastern region is going to reap shall be immeasurable in the long run,” he wrote.
He also went on to say that the government would not be able to complete the construction of the road by the term end.
Meanwhile, Shingkhar-Gorgan highway has been included in the 2007-27 national road master plan, endorsed by the parliament to be included in the 11th Five Year Plan.
Gup of Metsho under Lhuntse, Gembo said that people are still hoping for a road despite all the obstacles. “People are saying two terms are over and there is still no road but they have hope,” he said.
Zhongmaed village in the dzongkhag has been affected by the ongoing works on the Shingkhar-Gorgan highway. The road has been paved through their fields and they are unable to farm.
The villagers feel that it would be a loss for both the government and people if the road fails to materialize after investment of substantial resources already.
However, if the road comes through, it is expected to boost the eastern region and specifically Lhuntse’s economy.
Chencho Dema from Thimphu