Shingkhar-Gor­gan road awaits en­vi­ron­ment clear­ance

Bhutan Times - - Front Page - Lhakpa Tsh­er­ing

The con­struc­tion of Shingkhar-Gor­gan road had still not started de­spite re­solv­ing to con­struct it in the sec­ond ses­sion of the cur­rent par­lia­ment.

The con­struc­tion of 56-kilo­me­tre (km) road worth Nu.779 mil­lion was awarded to Project Dan­tak, but be­fore the com­mence­ment of work, they will have to get clear­ance from De­part­ment of Forests and Park Ser­vices.

There were also con­cerns raised by en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists as the road would pass through pro­tected ar­eas. The con­tra­dic­tion in the En­vi­ron­men­tal Im­pact As­sess­ment (EIA) is at­trib­uted to the de­lay.

At the on­go­ing ses­sion of the Par­lia­ment, MP from Gangzur-Min­jey con­stituency, Karma Rang­dol, asked when the con­struc­tion will be­gin. In re­sponse, the Prime Min­is­ter Dasho Tsh­er­ing Tob­gay said that the en­vi­ron­men­tal clear­ance is yet to be is­sued by the Na­tional En­vi­ron­ment Com­mis­sion (NEC).

Ly­onch­hen in­formed the House that en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment was car­ried out by the De­part­ment of Roads but the NEC didn’t is­sue clear­ance based on that re­port. Ly­onch­hen said, “If the gov­ern­ment didn’t re­spect the gen­eral in­ter­est of the coun­try and its peo­ple, the con­struc­tion would have al­ready be­gun.”

The park ar­eas are clas­si­fied into core zone and multi use zone. The de­vel­op­ment ac­tiv­i­ties are al­lowed only in multi use zone. Since the con­struc­tion of the high­way will pass through the core zone of the Phrum­sen­gla Na­tional Park, the as­sess­ment re­port showed con­cerns as the con­struc­tion will dam­age rare species of plants and an­i­mals.

Ly­onch­hen also said that lot of works in­volv­ing con­sul­ta­tions and en­vi­ron­men­tal laws had to be taken into ac­count. “The NEC had in­formed that the en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment was car­ried out based on Thrimshungla-Shingkhar re­gions while Pel­phuShig­mala re­gions should also have been con­sid­ered.”

How­ever, MP Karma Rang­dol said that the gov­ern­ment failed to con­struct the road in a re­mote dzongkhag where the pop­u­la­tion re­mained be­low the poverty line. “The con­struc­tion of road can bring eco­nomic ben­e­fit to the peo­ple,” he said, adding that Lhuentse is one of the poor­est dzongkhags in the coun­try.

He pointed out that many road con­struc­tions over­looked ex­ist­ing laws. Cit­ing an ex­am­ple he said, “Gom­phu-Pan­bang high­way passes 20-km in the Royal Manas Na­tional Park.”

The agri­cul­ture min­is­ter Yeshey Dorji said that the con­struc­tion of road could have ad­verse ef­fects on the en­vi­ron­ment if not car­ried out prop­erly. He how­ever said that the road will im­prove the over­all eco­nom­ics of the peo­ple but he said was there are many acts to be con­sid­ered and due process fol­lowed in the in­ter­est of democ­racy.

Ly­onch­hen fur­ther in­formed that ac­cord­ingly a new en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact as­sess­ment was be­ing car­ried and he was hope­ful that the clear­ance would be is­sued as Pel­phu-Shig­mala re­gions do not fall un­der pro­tected core zone area.

The con­struc­tion of high­way from Singkhar in Bumthang to Gor­gan in Lhuntse will re­duce the travel dis­tance be­tween the two Dzongkhags by over 100 km and 30 km to other eastern Dzongkhags. The cur­rent dis­tance be­tween Lhuntse to Ura in Bumthang is 207 km.

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