Sunday, May 22, 2016

Shingkhar-Gorgan Road Will Shorten Distance to Takila

In September of 2015, Bhutan submitted our Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), to the UN Climate Change Secretariat in Bonn, Germany. The document contained very serious commitments by Bhutan – to combat climate change – through environmental conservation and protection.

On the sidelines of the UNFCCC COP21 in Paris on December 10, 2015, Agriculture Minister Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji singed a joint declaration with the EU wherein Bhutan reiterated its COP 15 pledge to remain permanently carbon neutral. In appreciation of this extraordinary will and commitment to “keep the planet safe for life to continue”, EU tripled its assistance to Bhutan - from € 14 million (2007 - 2013) to € 42 million (2014 - 2020).

On 19th February, 2016, our Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay captivated the audience at the TED Talks in Vancouver, Canada where he declared:

“Of the 200-odd countries in the world today, it looks like we are the only one that's carbon neutral. Actually, that's not quite accurate. Bhutan is not carbon neutral. Bhutan is carbon negative”.

He went on to say:

We must keep our parks awesome. So every year, we set aside resources to prevent poaching, hunting, mining and pollution in our parks, and resources to help communities who live in those parks manage their forests, adapt to climate change, and lead better lives while continuing to live in harmony with Mother Nature”.

Generating over a million page views (1,311,270 as of 11:02:52AM; May 24, 2016) on the TED page, it has sparked keen interest among the world audience on Bhutan’s most recent environmental protection and conservation initiative – BHUTAN FOR LIFE.

One of the billionaire audiences who sat in the third row during the TED Talks in Vancouver was so impressed that he said he came to Bhutan to see for himself what the realities were on the ground. Whole lot of donors to Bhutan’s environmental NGOs and the BHUTAN FOR LIFE initiative have recently visited Bhutan and trekked the Shingkhar-Gorgan Road areas – to see what this controversial road was all about.

During a number of meetings I assured them that the road wasn't going to happen. I informed them that Shingkhar-Gorgan road would pass through the TNP – something that is forbidden by law. If constructed, the road would dissect the worlds only proven high altitude tiger migration corridor. If we go ahead and do this road, our promises to the world community would be just that – empty promises made without intending to keep them.

Some have put out the misinformation that the road would help avoid Thrumshing-La Pass that at times hinder flow of traffic, particularly during the winter months. The truth is that Singama-La Pass – over which the Shingkhar-Gorgan road has to pass, is even higher than Thrumshing-La. Thus someone has to be seriously stupid to say that the road would serve as a better alternative to Thrumshing-La. Namling is now stable and no longer a cause for worry for travelers.

Those who are quick to point out that Shingkhar-Gorgan road will help cut down travel time between east and west, a better point would have been made – if one were to point out that, by contrast, the country’s poorest Dzongkhag – Zhemgang don't have roads – let alone roads that need shortening. If the government has money available, let us look at the possibility of improving road connectivity in the remote Zhemgang villages.
The beautiful Singma-La Pass. One can see that the pass is way above the tree lines - meaning it is over 4,000 Mtrs.

 Thrumshing-La Pass at under 3,800 Mtrs. As opposed to the barren top of Singma-La, you can see trees atop the Thrumshing-La Pass. This means that this pass is much lower than Singama-La.

View of the beautiful Shingkhar Village from atop the Singma-La.

There is something insane going on about this road. I am told that some one has written in the Facebook that the Shingkhar-Gorgan road will open up the opportunity for people to visit the World’s largest statue of Guru Rinpoche in Takila.

You would break a law, imperil a rare tiger habitat, cause irreparable damage to a pristine ecosystem and bring ruin to the environment – just so you can get to visit the World’s largest statue of Guru Rinpoche in Takila?

At this scale of insanity, next thing would be that the same people would want the Tawang-Doksum-Guwahati road – on grounds that they can get to go to visit the Kamakhya in the shortest of time!


  1. As long as the tiger population is on the rise at least for now - the Shingkhar-Gorgan road will add impetus to the present conservation efforts and bring about positive impacts within the community and the nation as whole.

  2. Better divert the budget to the to be constructed road from Khomshar village under Bardo gewog, ZHEMGANG to Wama, village under Silambi gewog in Mongar Dzongkhag. The road construction plan is already in 12th fifth year plan. The road will not only connect Khengpa communities, it will connect Zhemgang and Mongar Dzongkhag; central and eastern Bhutan will be connected then.