There is something not quite right about this whole business about the proposed construction of the Shingkhar-Gorgan road across the wilderness of the TNP. The more I think about it, the more I am puzzled at the idiocy of the whole business. Nothing rings true - there is something fishy about this whole business. Lets us consider the following:
First and foremost, if the politicians are to be believed, it is the people of Lhuentse who want this road. So then why is it called Shingkhar-Gorgan road? It should rightly be called Gorgan-Shingkhar road. The nomenclature Shingkhar-Gorgan implies that the people of Bumthang want to get to Lhuentse and not the other way round.
Next, if this is a farm road, why is it constructed through a desolate area without a square inch of farm land or a single human settlement? How is a farm road defined and what purpose must it serve?
Third, by definition, farm roads are designed to carry vehicular traffic of the class of farm tractors and power tillers. How will it boost tourist arrivals in Lhuentse and the Eastern Dzongkhags? Are the proponents of the road saying that the tourists will be thrilled to bounce along bumpy and muddy farm roads that run through elevations over 4,000 Meters?
One of the arguments put forward by the proponents of the Shingkhar-Gorgan road is that it will cut travel time which will result in reduction of harmful emission. Does that mean that they hope that a caravan of power tillers and farm tractors will traverse through this perilous wilderness to get to Shingkhar and beyond? If not, how is it possible to reduce emission? Certainly, public transport such as buses and trucks and passenger cars will not drive over farm roads and that too, over a terrain fraught with unsafe climactic conditions such as fog, mist, ice and snow.
Regarding the reduction of travel time merely on the basis that distance will be shortened is something that I am not willing to believe. The distance may be shorter but what is the guarantee that the travel time will be reduced? Particularly when you are talking of treacherous terrain shrouded in mist and fog and caked in ice and snow all the year round? I personally would prefer to drive five hours more but through a route that I am certain will deliver me safely to my destination, rather than risk my life in trying to reduce travel time driving over 22 zigs that may not remain open most of the time.
The government’s established cost estimate for a farm road is Ngultrums three million per Km. The overall distance of the proposed road is as follows:
Shingkhar to Singmala 6 Kms
Singamala to Pelphu 30 Kms
Pelphu to Zhongmay 5 Kms
Zhongmay to Selibizam 6 Kms
Selibizam to Gorgan 5 Kms
TOTAL Distance 52 Kms
At Ngultrums three million a Km, the road should cost the exchequer a sum of Ngulturms one hundred and fifty six million. Additionally, the government has committed that the road will be constructed with the most stringent environment friendly construction practices. This will mean that the cost of the road will be will be four times more!
Why is a lie being put out that the road can be done in under Ngultrums sixty million?
Startlingly, the most Honorable MPs from Lhuentse, in their doggedness to get this road, declared that Lhuentse Dzongkhag is the poorest Dzongkhag in the country. That is in contrary to the government published statistics. Surely, putting out misinformation of this nature is being very irresponsible and designed to deliberately undermine some other Dzongkhags who deserve better treatment than they have been getting so far?
Does the government have so much money to build such lavish farm roads? If yes, then we the people in Khengri Nam Sum want some of that money because, as per the NSB’s fact sheet, as of 2008, Lhuentse has 77.5 Kms of farm road for a total population of 15,395, while the whole of Zhemgang with a population of 18,636 has only 28.5 Kms of farm road.
How about some fair deal for a change?