Mao Khola River

Bridge over Mao Khola and connecting Sarpang and Lhamoizingkha

One of the immediate positive impacts of the Gelephu Mindfulness City project is that the much promised and long awaited bridge over the Mao Khola will finally be happening as a part of the 13th plan.

The Mao Khola bridge will be built as part of the under 15 km of road and bridges from Gelephu to Tareythang Gewog.

Currently it takes 1 hour and 30 minutes from Gelephu to the plains of Tareythang given the 40-km distance mainly along hillside roads.

However, this new road and bridges will cut travel time down to 30 minutes or even lesser.

The project is estimated to cost around USD 80 mn or Nu 6.6 billion, however, the final cost will only be known after detailed studies. The World Bank is involved in the project and will give concessional borrowing.

This new road will require a total of 4 bridges of 1,300 meters of which the bridge over Mao Khola will be the longest at 800 meters. Bridges need to be built over other rivers like Thewar Khola and Taklai Khola. The other three bridges will span anything from 100 to 300 meters in length.

This project will on the top of the list projects to do along with the International airport as it will connect Gelephu to the plane areas of Tareythang and the also the 1.2 mn square feet of built up area of the former Food Security Gyalsung site which is now being repurposed for the Mindfulness City project.

The other major project also listed in the 13th plan is connecting Sarpang to Lhamoizingkha in a road that will go via the edges of the Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary.

This road would be around 60 to 66 km in length and bring Sarpang closer to not only Dagana but also Phuentsholing. However, since it is to be made a national highway then another 40 km of existing Gewog and Dzongkhag roads in Sarpang will have to be widened and made bigger making the total project at around 100 km.

A feasibility study will be done for the highway and then only will the final cost be known.

The highway is being welcomed by the Rangers of the Phibsoo Wildlife Sanctuary as it will enable them to better patrol the sanctuary against poachers from across the porus border and also enhance overall security. It can also be used to open Phibsoo Sanctuary to tourism

The road environmental and forest clearance will ensure the road does not go through the core areas of the sanctuary but the multi-use zones.

Given the terrain, the road will mainly be plane and along the foothills and thus makes it more economical.

The Asian Development Bank will be involved in this particular project and give concessional borrowing.

This road was there in the 11th plan but it had to be abandoned after security concerns due to attacks and kidnappings at the time. There were also foreign currency debt concerns. Both of the issues have now been resolved with improved security and debt no longer as big a concern.

This would also be the second last stretch to be connected on the southern east-west highway.

Though it is not in the draft 13th plan if Tareythang is connected to Panbang then barring some ongoing blacktopping works and bridge building works on the Nganglam-Dewathang highway the southern east-west highway would be completed.

The 2007 to 2027 Masterplan mentions connecting Tareythang and Panbang via Manas.

The Peoples’ Democratic Party manifesto says it will complete the east west highway by building the Panbang – Gelephu/Sarpang

road and the Gelephu/Sarpang –Lhamoizingkha road apart from improving the Jomotshangkha –Dewathang road, Dewathang – Nganglam road, Nganglam – Panbang road, Lhamoizingkha – Phuentsholing road, Phuentsholing – Samtse road and Samtse – Tendu road.

The Bhutan Tendrel Party manifesto does not mention any roads by name but it says it will keep Nu 50 bn for infrastructure investment, which includes highways.

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