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New bridge in Wangduephodrang

At a formal ceremony attended by government representatives from Bhutan and Switzerland, professionals and technicians involved in its construction, various development partners, and local residents, His Royal Highness the Crown Prince described the bridge as an important part of the government's effort to support and accelerate socio-economic development through the improvement of transport and infrastructure. "This bridge will serve as a reminder to our younger generation of the impressive history of bridge building that existed in Bhutan for many centuries," Dasho Khesar said. "It is a special pleasure to find the inspiring history of the old Tsangmi Zam being reflected in a new bridge that is, itself, of great importance to the people and the economy of Bhutan."

The Crown Prince conveyed Bhutan's appreciation to the government and people of Switzerland - represented at the ceremony by the Helvetas secretary general, Mr. Werner Kuelling, the head of Helvetas overseas department, Mrs. Esthor Oettli, and the resident coordinator in Bhutan, Mr. Dieter Zurcher - for this "gift" which has been described as a symbol of Bhutan-Swiss friendship. The deputy minister for communications, Dasho Leki Dorji, described the bridge as an important link in the national road infrastructure.

Mr. Kuelling described the inauguration as a landmark in the long-standing cooperation between Bhutan and Switzerland. Born out of personal friendship between His Majesty King Jigme Dorji Wangchuck and Mr. Fritz von Schulthess 50 years ago, Helvetas had taken over the cooperation in 1975 with technical and financial assistance to suspension bridge programme and other infrastructure development projects including medical centres and other institutions.

The two-lane arch bridge, with side-walks, spans 120 metres with an arch span of 96 metres. It was built in 20 months with Helvetas spending Nu 65 million and the royal government channeling Nu 20 million for additional costs.

The discussions between Helvetas and the government began in 1995 on the construction of the bridge. In the planning process over the years the government had decided to build a stable concrete bridge instead of a traditional wooden design which was initially proposed. After this was finalised the construction of the bridge was started to coincide with the silver jubilee of Helvetas in Bhutan. Work was taken up by an Indo-Bhutan joint venture, Singye Construction and S.P. Malik Kolkatta, under the supervision of the department of roads. It was completed seven months ahead of schedule.

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