Shingkhar-Gorgan highway on hold for now says Agriculture Minister

The Shingkhar-Gorgan highway that passes through the core area of the Thrumshingla National Park, which is a safe haven for the Royal Bengal Tigers, is a highly debated topic as some environmentalists had alleged that the construction of such a highway runs in violation with the Nature and Forest Conservation Rule, 2006, which does not permit any kind of constructions within the

core area due to environmental consequences.

The Agriculture Minister Yeshey Dorji, who earlier gave a green signal to Shingkhar-Gorgan highway, said the construction has been kept on hold by the government as of now.

Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said the budget for the highway construction has not been allocated in 2014 -2015 budget year list.

“The environmental clearance has been done but there are some issues on it expressed by the Forest Department,” the minister said.

The minister said that he was looking at the various issues and communications on the road that came up during the former government’s time. He , however, said that the Shingkhar-Gorgan highway is still in the list of activities.

The minister pointed to the submission of the people of Lhuentse Dzongkhag to the upcoming National Assembly urging for the road to be built.

In his earlier interview with the paper, Agriculture Minister said the Shingkhar-Gorgan highway was the initiative of the previous government and the present government was just continuing the work.

Though all this does not mean that the government has shelved the project as it has committed to build the road but the delay will mean that the construction is not a simple issue.

Meanwhile the Opposition Leader, Dr Pema Gyamtsho, also the former Agriculture Minister said he was against the Shingkhar-Gorgan highway, and which is why the construction of the road was kept on hold during his time.

“The difficult terrain requiring blasting to be done and due to which the habitats of the animals will be affected. After the construction of the road, there will be an increase in poaching and logging,” the Opposition Leader shared his views.

The construction of the road, which will cost the government approximately Nu 890mn, is expected to reduce the travelling distance by 100kms from Shingkhar, Ura (Bumthang) and Gorgan in Lhuentse. Meanwhile, the journey to Mongar will be decreased by 30 kms.

An environmentalist like Dasho Paljor J Dorji, founder of the Royal Society for Protection of Nature (RSPN), is opposed to the construction of the highway. He said if the government wants it then they should follow the due process of law and not usurp it.

“I just drove to the East and back and there was hardly any traffic. Does the cost justify the road and who will use it, who will maintain it, what is the budget for maintenance, etc?” Dasho Paljor pointed out.

He also mentioned, “I am not going to get confrontational. I think it is very sad and I urge the government to reconsider its decision.”

The 36kms road will pass through the core area of the Thrumshingla National Park which is primary habitat for many endangered species including the tigers.

The highway construction was stranded during the previous government’s time due to budget shortage.

One of the officials from the Thrumshingla National Park said that they have not got any sort of order in regards to the highway.

Chencho Dema / Thimphu

 

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