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Merak residents celebrate completion of GC road GSB-paving

Neten Dorji | Merak 

Residents of Merak, a remote village in Trashigang, are elated that the GSB-paving of the GC road is complete and blacktopping work has begun from the Gewog Lhakhang.

This road improvement will benefit about 350 households in Merak Gewog and the upper parts of Radhi Gewog.

The work on the road from Khardung to Merak, which stretches for 35.4 km, has been awarded in two packages to contractors. The first package, which is a 19-km stretch from Shetimi to the Gewog centre, was awarded in September 2020 for a period of 24 months with a total budget of Nu 76.5 million. The second package, which covers the work from Khardung to Shetimi, was awarded in April 2021 and supposed to be completed in April 2023 at the cost of Nu 66.48 million.

However, the blacktopping work was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Merak Gup Nima has stated that the blacktopping of the GC road would benefit the people as they will now be able to take their livestock products to the market.

“The accessibility to markets is now more realistic for my people,” he said. “The travel time would be reduced by half, which means it will now take only two hours to transport their produce to Trashigang market.”

Nima said that the Gewog lacked knowledge to inspect the quality of blacktopping work. However, he added that if the quality is poor, the road might get damaged easily.

Merak Gewog was connected with a motorable road in 2014. After the connection of the road, the Merak village has changed a lot and benefited the community.

Ngaden, a 61-year-old resident of Merak, said that blacktopping would make life easier for older people while travelling.

“In the past, the poor condition of the road during monsoon made it difficult to take our products to the market, and the transportation cost was high,” she said. “We expect to reduce transportation costs. Except for a few locals of the community who own a Bolero pickup, no taxis or private vehicles would make a deal to come to Merak, especially during the monsoon.”

Residents said that they are expecting the completion of the entire blacktopping work of the Khardung to Merak stretches.

“The base course has been completed, and all the raw materials, including the aggregates and bitumen, are at the site,” said a resident. “We want quality GC roads.”

The well-maintained road with GSB and blacktopping will benefit the residents in the gewog with a clean and safe environment to work, travel, and live in, a local leader said. He added that the blacktopping was delayed in the past due to Covid-19 and given a time extension to contractors.

According to dzongkhag officials, the blacktopping work is scheduled to be completed by the end of June this year. However, the officials and local leaders are worried about the completion of blacktopping work due to weather conditions.

“Extreme weather conditions at the site, including snowfall during winter and heavy rain during summer, hampered work progress. Frequent breakdown of machines due to extreme cold also hindered the progress,” said the officials.

Officials said they are reminding contractors about work schedules. “We are visiting the site to monitor the quality of blacktopping work.”

Meanwhile, given their unique semi-nomadic lifestyle, culture, and scenic pastoral valleys, the smooth road is expected to increase visitors to the area.