Shingkhar-Gorgan road awaits environment clearance
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.