Dreaming Big: Project Tunnelling

An old saying goes thus: “If you aim for the stars you will at least reach the moon.” Same goes with all simple rules in life; that if we have dreams and ambitions and forge our way into achieving it, nothing can deter us from achieving our goals.

However, on the contrary, the biggest setback would be to be content with meagre achievements and basking in the success of mediocrity –this will be the biggest stumbling block against any natural or man-made calamities that will forever tie us to an unseen chain of backwardness and stagnation.

Case in point our roads. Roads remain the main artery to any developmental projects of any nation and economy, and given that the world today is becoming typically smaller with major breakthroughs in technology, internet and telecommunications it is only apt that we embolden our telecommunication and road networks.     

Given our mountainous terrain and unforgiving topography, building road networks are one of the most challenging and the cost of maintenance is also very high as it is periodically washed away by massive landslides and flash floods which has become a common occurrence in the country every monsoon. The cost of constructing these roads and maintaining them runs into billions every year. And with rampant corruption in the construction sector, as is reflected in our Annual Audit Reports, makes the costs shoot through the roof while quality takes a huge lashing.

One alternative that we can explore is road tunnelling projects that can at least solve this cycle of make-and-break-make again apathy as is apparent with our roads today. While the present government tabled this development prospect – road tunnelling—during one of the parliament sessions in 2019, the covid-19 pandemic seems to forever erased it out of our collective memories as we now focus on economic recovery and redemption.

Building tunnels as an alternative to road networks will be one of the most significant long-term alternatives in a mountainous country like ours. While the costs will be enormous, the economic impact in addition to saving time and not scarring our fragile environments are also some of the fringe benefits. Moreover, tunnels are a long-term investment and the billions we spend on road maintenance and repair every year can largely be saved.

While we also need to keep our roads open and pliable throughout, a major tunnel highway linking important districts and towns starting from Haa to Samdrup Jongkhar should be one of our long-term developmental targets because the soci0-economic benefits the country and the citizens will accrue will be immense. Imagine living in Bumthang while being able to attend office here in Thimphu.

Wishful thinking as it might sound, but the possibilities are limitless if we have the foresight and planning, and the will to do it. For that matter, we can start planning today.