Lyonpo Chandra Bahadur Gurung, Minister of Infrastructure and Transport

MoIT minister sets priorities from Southern East-West highway to Railway to Airports

Lyonpo Chandra Bahadur Gurung, the Minister of Infrastructure and Transport (MoIT), commits to addressing critical issues such as housing and transportation infrastructure.

He emphasized his priority to expand home ownership opportunities beyond civil servants to include corporate and private employees. He shared that recognizing the universal need for shelter, he believes that providing affordable housing will motivate individuals to remain in our country and contribute to the nation’s progress.

In addition to addressing housing concerns, Lyonpo expressed his commitment to improving the livability of settlements across the country.

Highlighting the vast scope of the ministry, which encompasses five departments with significant mandates, he said that regarding transportation infrastructure since there already is progress made on the north-east-west highway with double lanes, he acknowledged the need to address missing links along the southern-east-west highway for enhanced connectivity.

Specific areas requiring attention include Nganglam to Dewathang, Samrang to Jomotsangkha, and Lhamoizingkha to Sarpang.

To facilitate efficient travel to Gelephu Mindfulness City, the MoIT aims to optimize highway routes. For instance, they are exploring the possibility of tunneling stretches along the Thimphu to Phuntsholing highway to reduce travel time.

Lyonpo emphasized the significance of the Lhamoizingkha to Sarpang route, spanning 94km, and the Tsirang to Gelephu highway in improving overall travel experiences. He also mentioned the challenges posed by narrow roads and numerous twists and turns which they will look into.

Furthermore, he shared that the ministry is actively exploring two crucial rail links from India to Bhutan, namely Kokrajhar to Gelephu and Samtse to Banarhat.

These projects are in the advanced stages of finalization, and he expressed optimism that rail links to Gelephu and Samtse will be established during his term.

Additionally, the ministry is considering the implementation of a light rail trail within Bhutan to further improve transportation options.

In terms of rail connectivity, the MOIT plans to initiate an access project and conduct technical feasibility studies for both external and internal rail links. These efforts will aim to enhance connectivity to manufacturing and mining industries, fostering economic growth and development. While no concrete report is available at present, the minister remains committed to exploring viable solutions.

The MOIT minister mentioned that he is committed to delivering services as promised in their pledges.

The government in its pledges has mentioned to improving infrastructure and promoting home ownership in the country.

The key highlights of their pledges include establishing railway connectivity at Gelephu, Nganglam, Samtse, Samdrup Jongkhar, and Pasakha, linking them with Indian rail links. Complete the South-East-West Highway by enhancing various road networks along the route.

In addition to infrastructure development, the government has pledged to provide home ownership for all citizens.

5 Airports

On the first day in office, the Prime Minister convened a meeting with the Cabinet Ministers. Four Executive Orders and ten directives were issued to various ministries for expedited implementation.

One of the directives to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport was to conduct an initial feasibility study on construction of five Airstrips in strategic locations across the country. The Ministry to submit the findings of the study by May 1, 2024.

Minister of Infrastructure and Transport Authority (MoIT), Chandra Bahadur Gurung, disclosed the ministry’s contemplation on the prospect of introducing multiple air strips across Bhutan.

While the ministry is still in the preliminary stages of exploring this possibility, MoIT Minister hinted at the potential establishment of five air strips across various regions of the country, depending on the feasibility and viability assessments.

Lyonpo emphasized that the primary objective of building the air strips is to facilitate easier movement of goods and people within the country while concurrently promoting tourism.

He said, “The ministry is committed to establishing these potential airstrips, which will initially cater to domestic flights. Subsequently, expansion plans will align with the evolving needs of the nation and governmental strategies.”

The revelation of feasibility study of airstrips by the government has sparked enthusiasm among citizens across Bhutan, many of whom perceive this initiative as a catalyst for regional development and economic growth.

Dungkhar from Mongar said, “Having a domestic airport in our locality could significantly boost the tourism industry and foster development in the east. This could also generate employment opportunities for the youth and contribute to infrastructure enhancement.”

Similarly, Raj Sharma, a resident of Samtse, said that there is a potential for tourism promotion and cultural exchange if Samtse is to be endowed with a domestic airport.

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