Old highway poses threat and inconvenience

Although renovation works are underway for the Thimphu- Punakha highway, it has added to the existing inconveniences for now

Commuters along the Thimphu to Punakha highway have complained that the highway is in its worst shape, riddled with potholes and ditches not only posing risk of fatal accidents, but giving people a nightmarish travel experience.

The journey along the highway, especially starting from Lamperi stretching all the way to Thinleygang gets precarious due to terrible condition of the road.

One of the taxi drivers Karma Tenzin who ferries goods and people across the highway said he dreads the stretch of the road. “In many parts of the road, the asphalts are peeled of creating potholes which are filled with water.” He added that when such potholes are brimmed with water, they cannot predict the depth and land up getting bumped really hard.

He pleaded that there is a need for the authorities to respond and react accordingly to such discomfort of the public. “Due to such road condition, accidents cannot be ruled out,” he said, “Until something disastrous happens, authorities do not easily respond,” he added.

The road condition, the regular road user noted, deteriorated with the commencement of Punatsangchu Hydroeletric Porject. The project transported many heavy types of machinery in equally huge trucks and other ten wheelers which exerted equally huge pressure on the road. Hence, the road was not built for such trucks to ply as it gives way to the pressure and wears out quickly.

Jigme, a trucker, with his truck fully loaded and en route to deliver goods to PHPA agreed that the road condition is horrible. “I have been delivering PHPA’s goods for so many years and I know pretty well about the road,” he said.

He went on to say that the road has really worsened its condition over the years. “Be it the age of the road or the number and type of users, the road is now in its worst condition.” But he said, for road user like him, he has no option than to keep using the road, in whatever condition it is. “We, the truckers, derive our livelihood by ferrying goods and we need to use roads.

Heavy vehicles drivers say such road conditions are not easy to ply on either. Jigme Wangchuk, a light vehicle driver, shared that he felt no better. “There is no way, one can avoid the potholes, there is literally too many. So, most of the time, I don’t even make an effort to dodge the potholes,” he added.

Many road users say that the maintenance cost of their vehicles has doubled due to poor road condition. Those, who used to maintain their vehicles few times in a year, say, it doubled after they use the stretch. Many workshop owners both in Lobesa and Thimphu shared that they received few clients with their vehicles needing repair which got problematic plying along the stretch.

However, works to widen and improve the highway is already in full swing. As the first step in doing so, the trees and bushes along the highway are being cleared away. Once, it is done, bull dozing or excavating the earth will follow.

After the full road widening and improvement is completed, it will put an end to the current nightmare of the travelers or users of the highway stretch. The road will be widened not only easily comfortable enough for two vehicles to whizz by, but also the potholes, ditches and bumps will disappear.

However, road users still complain that the road widening works has for now, worsened the already old and worn out highway. The fallen trees crumble on the road. Although the people engaged in the works are doing everything not to disrupt the traffic flow, people say that logs and other tree debris are left right on the sides of the roads.

This not only eats up space for the vehicles to ply on, but also increase the risk of collisions. Moreover, travelers complain that the road widening works have disrupted the drainage facilities of the road. This has resulted in waters flowing on the road instead of the drainage systems.

“Water is one main thing that needs to be kept away from the road,” said one trucker. He said that soon after the drainage gets dysfunctional and water spills on the road, the potholes and ditches appear. The road worsens even to the extent of even the landslides or soil erosion and the whole chunk of road is washed away.

However, according to the road officials such inconvenience would be solved once the road widening works are completed.

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