Dantak Chief Engineer says this was a mistake by ground level workers and that Dantak is working in close coordination with MoWHS
A Bhutanese by the name Tashi Gyeltshen uploaded pictures on Facebook of reflectors on the Paro-Thimphu highway resembling the Indian tri-color flag of saffron, white and green.
The colors seemed to be a recent addition as they were not there earlier.
The post which was uploaded on Thursday morning soon went viral on social media, eliciting many views with most questioning such a move.
The Bhutanese paper on Thursday afternoon got in touch with the Minister for Works and Human Settlement Lyonpo Dorji Choden who was in Trashiyangtse and asked about the issue.
Lyonpo, who was surprised to hear of such a development, replied to the question saying that all new road signs including those of Dantak have to follow the Bhutan Standard Bureau’s (BSB) uniform standards and rules for road signage.
She said that uniform road signs are a must under the Road Act.
At the time she said that she would ask her secretary to follow up the issue with Dantak.
The Bhutanese, later on Thursady called the Dantak Chief Engineer Brigadier A.K Sharma to enquire if he was aware of the tri-color reflectors and if it had been authorized by him.
The Dantak Chief Engineer who also appeared surprised with the development said that the senior Dantak officials has not instructed or authorized the use of the colors scheme on the road barriers.
He said, “We have laborers from Orissa and West Bengal and they must have done it at the ground level. There is no design or intention to it from Dantak and we will correct them.”
The Chief Engineer said, “I am very sensitive on the issue and when I joined in January 2018, I had a frank chat with quite a few top officials on such issues. Things cannot change overnight as there are procedures but we are bringing about change. We are not seeking ownership.”
He said that he would ask his officials to check whether these tricolors were there and then take action.
The next day when The Bhutanese called the Chief Engineer again to follow up he said that his people had started making changes to the color scheme reflectors which were found on the Thimphu-Paro highway between Chuzom and Babesa.
“The reflectors are a mandatory safety feature but I have asked that the tri-colors should be replaced with any other colors they have in stock,” said the Chief Engineer. He said that some enthusiastic ground level workers had chosen the initial color combination of the reflectors, which is now being replaced. He further said that they had been briefed on the issue.
The Chief Engineer said that he has asked his officers to do a complete review of all other roads to ensure that such things have not happened there too. He said that he would also have the stretch from Chuzom towards Damchu verified on Saturday.
The Chief Engineer said, “I have discussed the developments of the past two days with the Honorable Lyonpo and appraised her of our intentions and actions to update all signages in accordance with specifications of DoR.”
He said that Dantak is working in close coordination with the MoWHS.
This is not the first signage issue as in April 2017 the Department of Roads changed a ‘Dantak Welcomes You to Bhutan’ sign right outside the Paro International Airport to ‘Paro Dzo Welcomes You to Bhutan’ sign.
This was after Dantak failed to respond after the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement (MoWHS) wrote to Dantak around a year ago.
After the Paro airport change the BSB came up with uniform signage and the MoWHS sat down with Dantak and informed them that all future signs would have to be uniform and follow the BSB rules as part of the larger Road Act.
Lyonpo Dorji Choden said this was communicated to Dantak and so henceforth Dantak would not put up signs without following the BSB rules.
Lyonpo said that the BSB standard was not just for Dantak and involved everyone in road building and maintenance like DoR, Dzongkhags, Gewogs, Contractors and others, for all categories of roads.
The prompt and diplomatic response of the current Dantak Chief Engineer is a marked departure from the past experience in 2017, and shows better understanding and communication on the issue.