Residents call for Punakha suspension bridge renovation

The longest suspension bridge in the country, which is also a tourist attraction, over the Phochhu in Punakha is in need of maintenance. The quality of the bridge has deteriorated over the years and become a cause of concern for the people. Dzomi Gup raised this issue during the Dzongkhag Tshogdu early this month. According to the gup, the bridge started sagging with some parts of the side wire mesh rusted and damaged posing risks for the users. 

The bridge which is almost three decades old measuring 230 metres long and more than a metre in width suspended over the Phochhu is one of the most popular sites for sightseeing among tourists and locals.

The bridge was initially constructed in 1994 to link the settlements of four gewogs of Punakha with the district administration in Punakha Dzong in the absence of road.

In the following years, with the advent of road connectivity, the bridge gradually turned into a hotspot for tourists and locals.

Besides, the bridge carries two water supply pipes meant for the Punakha Dratshang.

Over the years, the bridge started developing damages. Some side wire mesh are damaged and even chains are beginning to rust, worrying the users.

Dzomi Gup Dawa Tashi, during the Dzongkhag Tshogdu, requested a renovation of the bridge to avoid any mishaps.

“There is a huge difference in the condition of the bridge compared to the past. Earlier, the position of the bridge used to be a bit straight. But now with increasing number of visitors every year, the height of the bridge has dropped due to sagging. So, we are requesting the district engineering sector to carry out some maintenance and reinstate the bridge to its original position.”

The gup said the issue was raised several times in the past Dzongkag Tshogdu session due to concerns among the public.

He also added that the bridge has not seen any major renovation works since its establishment.

“We are requesting for financial support from the district administration to construct a footpath from the crematorium till the bridge. It will benefit both the tourists and students using the bridge.”

“The height of the bridge has dropped drastically. The bridge condition is not the same as it was in the past. As the bridge is sagging, we now have to walk upward from the middle of the bridge unlike before. Earlier, the bridge used to be straight. We can see and feel the differences since we belong to this place and have been using this bridge for a long time now,” said Sangay, a resident.

“I was here about a month ago as well and when I check it now, I feel like the bridge has started to sag further. I have also checked the metallic parts and they are rusting now,” said Namgay, another resident.

However, the chief engineer of the Regional Engineering Cluster at Khuruthang reported in the Dzongkhag Tshogdu that there is no problem with the bridge as per their examination.

But he said there is a cable elongation due to heavy traffic and as the bridge has been in use for a long time.

“As per our physical verification, the suspended bridge in Dzomi Gewog was found within valid capacity and safe without any problem. The bridge is still strong enough for its service. The bridge’s cable capacity is 54 tonnes and it can resist the whole weight even if more number of people walk on the bridge today,” said Parsuram Rai, Chief of the Regional Engineering Cluster in Punakha.

The chief engineer recommended people to refrain from hoisting prayer flags on the bridge, as the weight of the accumulated prayer flags can add to the bridge’s tension due to wind pressure.

In addition, the chief engineer said the district will have to allocate separate budget if the bridge is to be renovated and reinstated to its original position.

Changa Dorji, Punakha

Edited by Phub Gyem

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