The Member of Parliament (MP) Norbu Wangzom from Jomotsangkha-Martshala constituency, during the question and hour session in the National Assembly (NA), emphasized on the importance of the transport sector in the country.
She said that the transport sector is a critical component of economic development, and it is imperative to have long term planning and clear strategic development plans. However, the sector is faced with numerous problems and challenges.
She said, “With the hike in the fuel price, and import of huge vehicles, the drivers in transport sector seem to have numerous challenges, given the touch competition in the market. We feel the need of promoting transport sector by the government.”
Thereby, she questioned the Prime Minister on the plans and policies of the government to promote a robust and vibrant transport sector.
The Prime Minister Dasho Dr Lotay Tshering, in response, said that there are issues which needs immediate response while there are some which they cannot help by the law. People are aware that supporting one party might have different impact on the other party. Bhutan has only a few aircrafts. For now, the importance and focus is to have good roads.
Lyonchhen said, “There are around 19,000 km of roads which are pliable, and 1,700 km of primary national highways, wherein if we are able to make 5,000 km, it would connect all the 20 dzongkhags in the country.”
PM further said the road construction is in keeping with the 20-year (2007 to 2027) plan to enhance the road connectivity in the country, and the farm roads are also improving with time.
Knowing the importance of roads, the government was able to connect the 60 km Samrang-Jomotshangkha road at the cost of Nu 1.2 billion. They were able to connect the three gewogs under Jomotshangkha which got disconnected during the pandemic, and injected Nu 120 mn into it, Lyonchhen added.
Meanwhile, he said, “This monsoon, around 7 bridges got washed away in 20 different areas. Having a landslide is okay because we can clear that up with machines, but it is concerning when the road gets disconnected completely.”
There is no system to get a different budget to get the roads reconnected or to have the bridges rebuilt, he said, adding that in these three months alone, the government spent around Nu 4 to 5 million.
There is no option but to use the budget allotted for different purposes, or borrow from others. When the government decides to adjust the budget on the priority basis, the talk will again come in the Parliament for a discussion, he added.
“We have connected Samrang-Jomotshangkha road, and we are studying on the 60 km road from Serchu-Kurichu, which would connect various districts and the border. Likewise, the MoWHS Minister is coordinating research on connecting various regions,” PM said.
This is important for now, PM said, considering the importance of air transport, the government has worked on having a new airport in Mongar, however, it was not feasible, as per the research. The expenditure was going to be huge which is why it was postponed.
Since it was not feasible, for now, His Majesty The King has commanded to look for other alternative in the eastern side, which could have airport like the Paro International Airport, he further added.
When it comes to sea transport, he said, “We cannot have that, given our biological terrain and no sea, which can be used for that purpose.”