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Villagers reap benefits as Amochhu Bridge opens to traffic

Just a month after the Samtse-Phuentsholing National highway opened to traffic, the villages along the highway have already started reaping the benefits.

After the Amochhu Bridge was completed and the road formally opened for traffic, most of the people have started using the road to travel to Phuentsholing.

Earlier people of Tading, Dophugchen and Denchhukha gewogs under Samtse dzongkhag used to travel to Samtse for their weekly shopping. But now most of them are travelling to Phuentsholing using the new highway.

It is more convenient for the villagers to reach Phuentsholing than Samtse. Now most of the boleros from this region travel to Phuentsholing using the road. With better road conditions, it does not take more than three hours to reach Dorokha, according to the villagers.

More importantly, the new highway will ensure safety while travelling from Samtse to Phuenstholing unlike the Indian highway where strikes and other harassments along the highways are frequent. Also people now can use the roads during medical emergencies without having to travel through the Indian highway. “It has become much easier for us because of the bridge,” Lal Bdr. Gurung, 26, a bolero driver from Dorokha said.

For the people of Dorokha, the new highway has shortened the distance to reach Phuentsholing and the rest of the country. The distance has reduced to only 58km to reach Phuentsholing while it used to be more than 70 while routing from Samtse.

For the farmers, now the new highway has made it easy to market their products away from Samtse town. Earlier, while routing through Indian roads, the farmers were harassed with numerous formalities while transporting their goods to reach the market. “Now we can reach our products anywhere risk free, our main benefit. Many farmers faced such harassment,” said Tara Nidhi Phuyel, 34, from Mithun, Dorokha.

Now, the villagers use the road to transport heavy goods from Phuentsholing via the bridge. Earlier they had to bring from either Samtse or Gomtu. The villagers of Khempagang, Panbari and Laptsakha from where the highway runs are happy. Now, a few shops and restaurants have sprouted along the highways to cater to the travelers. Unlike other shops, the restaurants serve the travelers along the highway. “We expect better business in the future, when the highway is fully functional. Today, we are just serving the travelers as there are not much shops along the highway,” Dilip Ghalley from Khempagang said.

People used a suspension bridge for years to cross the river. Vehicles from Phuentsholing used to reach till the bridge point and people had to get a lift in other vehicles after crossing the suspension bridge. Even transporting goods were expensive without the bridge. It would cost Nu 100 for a packet of rice and Nu 50 for a case of beer just to cross the suspension bridge. “It was real challenge then. Now we are blessed to have a bridge,” said Leki Wangmo Doya, 36, from Taba.

The Department of Roads (DOR) completed the Amochhu Bridge last month. The project was initiated in 2005 with the Royal Government of Bhutan funding. The 175-m long bridge at Tabaramtey, eight kilometers from Phuentsholing serves as a critical link on the Samtse-Phuentsholing highway. It is the longest permanent bridge in the country. However, the eight kilometer stretch from Phuentsholing to the bridge point is still unpaved. The work is expected to start along with the start of the Phuentsholing Township Development Project next year.

Tading Gup, Jagath Bdr. Ghalley said that road is expected to boost the living standards of the people. He said that there were challenges for the people to reach their farm products to the market without a bridge. “Now, it will become easier for people to sell their products and earn,” he said.

Samtse Dzongkhag’s Planning Officer, Tashi said that the DOR has proposed Nu 160mn in the 12th plan for major maintenance along the highway including blacktopping of the eight kilometer stretch in Phuentsholing. “As soon as the new government approves, the maintenance works will be started,” he said.

Krishna Ghalley from Panbari, Samtse