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6.) Re-construction of the Cantilever Bridge crossing the Mochhu (Mo-River) and connecting Punakha village and the Punakha Dzong in adapted traditional Bhutanese architecture.

Link to the photo gallery:
» Exhibition on Bhutanese Cantilever Bridges (Bazams) and the "Pro Bhutan" Bridge in Punakha

On 10th of May, the sacred Punakha Dzong has regained its full beauty, harmony and spirituality; it was the auspicious day, when the PUNA MOCHHU BAZAM, the cantilever bridge in adapted traditional Bhutanese architecture, was inaugurated by H.E. Jigmi Thinley, Prime Minister of Bhutan, and “Pro Bhutan ” Chairman Harald N. Nestroy, German Ambassador (rtd).

Inaug., l. to r.:Dr. Haring, Bhut. Prime Minister Monks blessing the bridge at inaug.

Inaug., l. to r.: Dr. Haring, Bhut. Prime Minister Jigmi Y. Thinley, H.N.Nestroy, Angelika Nestroy, Dagmar Haring, F. Baumgartner

Monks blessing the bridge at inaug.

The Bhutanese Foreign Minister, the Home Minister and the Minister for Works and Settlements, MPs, diplomats including the Dpty Chief of Mission and the Cultural Councillor of the German Embassy New Delhi, other Bhutanese dignitaries, some German major donors, Dr. W. Haring (President), Mrs Dagmar Haring-Nestroy (Treasurer), Mrs. Angelika Nestroy (Secretary) from “Pro Bhutan Germany” and hundreds of red robed monks and Bhutanese from the area took part.

Religious mark dances and folk dances in front of the new bridge, decorated with hundreds of colourful cloth and prayer flags flapping in the gentle breeze, the traditional dresses of the Bhutanese dignitaries in their Ghos and carrying their swords, the ladies in their kiras and their jewellery caught the attention of the spectators. The perfect sun made the purple-blue flowers of the Jacaranda glitter in front of the white walls of the impressive Dzong.

Mask dance in front of new bridge at inauguration 10. May 2008

Mask dance in front of new bridge at inauguration 10. May 2008

H.E. the Prime Minister praised the bridge saying that for the last half a century, the holy Punakha Dzong, without the bridge, was like a human being without a limb.

Punakha Dzong with steel suspension bridge, ungainly provisional solution 1958-2007

Punakha Dzong with steel suspension bridge, ungainly provisional
solution 1958-2007

He emphasized that the new Bazam is a very substantial contribution to the celebrations of “100 years of Wangchuck Monarchy in 2008” and to the coronation of His Majesty King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck in the Punakha Dzong.

Punakha Dzong with new bridge, 10. May 2008

Punakha Dzong with new bridge, 10. May 2008

The Prime Minister thanked cordially the generous donors and the partners like Walt-Galmarini and Prof. Speerli who enabled “Pro Bhutan” to complete this unique project, and the local staff of “Pro Bhutan” who, with the Bhutanese contractors, had worked so hard to finish the construction in time.

How did this incredible project come about?

The original roofed wooden cantilever bridge, built together with the Dzong in the 17th century; was washed away by a flood in 1958. The new roofed bridge was an enormous technical challenge as the original bridge had a span of only 35 meters! The new bridge has also been constructed of wood, but now has a free span of 55 meters: due to the widening of the river by 20 meters by the mentioned flood. With a width of 3,4 meters, the bridge will be for the use of persons and cattle only.

Original bridge built about 1740, photograph from 1906 New bridge seen from Punakha village, 10. May 2008

Original bridge built about 1740,
photograph from 1906

New bridge seen from Punakha
village, 10. May 2008

Much technical detail research by our “Pro Bhutan” Project Co-ordinator Fritz Baumgartner was necessary, as no bridge in this traditional wooden cantilever technique and with similar dimensions has been built in the last 100 years or longer.

Without the assistance of an experienced engineering company, experts in designing long span bridges, responsible technical planning of the future Punakha bazam could not be achieved. Walt +Galmarini AG - Dipl. Bauingenieure ETH SIA USIC, Zurich, a world wide renowned engineering company specialized, among many other complicated constructions with large span, in designing bridges of all kind, helped: it generously accepted to design the new Punakha bazam  in traditional architecture combined with most modern technology; their responsible engineer was Mr. Wofram Kuebler. Prof. Juerg Speerli of a Swiss Technical University designed the river bank protection against possible floods by glacier lake bursts.

See » Poster by the engineer

The works started in fall 2006 and were completed in a record time in May 2008.

This new bridge, replacing the ungainly improvisation, the steel cable bridge in place for almost half a century, now has completed the majestic beauty of the holy Punakha Dzong where the founder of Bhutan, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal lies embalmed in state and is venerated as a living God, where His Holiness Je Khenpo resides with more than 500 monks in winter, where all the Kings of Bhutan were and will be coronated.

Accordingly, the “Pro Bhutan” bridge was instrumental at the coronation of the new King of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, in the Punakha Dzong, on 1. November, 2008. As the new bridge has given back to this holy Dzong of the Kings of Bhutan its beauty and dignity, it has also been recognised by His Majesty the King and by the Royal Bhutanese Government as a prominent contribution to the celebrations of the jubilee „100 Years Wangchuck Monarchy“ during the course of 2008 and 2009.

For more information please click:
» PDF Report: “The inauguration of the Punakha bridge 10th May, 2008“
» PDF detailed Report: “The Coronation of H.M. Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, 5th King of Bhutan or Druk Gyalpo (Dragon King) in the Punakha Dzong on 1. November 2008”

How is this project financed?

The costs for this culturally-religiously so important project amount to € 850.000,--. They are covered by special donations earmarked for the bridge and entrusted to “Pro Bhutan” by private donors. The German Foreign Office, Berlin, within the program „Preservation of Cultural Heritage“, has contributed € 50.000,-- .

WALT+GALMARINI AG, Dipl. Bauingenieure ETH SIA USIC, Zürich, have generously contributed their complex and innovative engineering work to this challenging project free of charge. The same holds for the contribution by Prof. Juerg Speerli for the river bank protection as well as for the Technical Universtity Biel, Dept. for Wood and Composit Material (Dr. Matthias Schmid), which carried out the examinations of the different available trees as to their suitability (flexibility, density, load capacity, etc,) required for the construction of a bridge safe for the users.

The costs for this project have risen drastically since signing of the agreement due to the enormous rise of construction costs in Bhutan. Thus we still have a financial gap to cover.

Would YOU like to contribute to this unique cultural heritage project with  YOUR specially earmarked donation?

Establishment of a Permanent Exhibition on Bhutanese Cantilever Bridges (Bazams)

Link to the photo gallery:
» Exhibition on Bhutanese Cantilever Bridges (Bazams) and the "Pro Bhutan" Bridge in Punakha

in the village side Tower of our Punakha Bridge: 50 photographs on Aluminium sheets, showing former original bazams (8 taken by British Diplomat J.C. White in 1906), of existing bazams and of the construction process of our new bazam to the Punakha Dzong, plus panels with texts and technical drawings. 

This exhibition was funded by the German Embassy in India.

  Project details

» Project index

» Project 1:
Construction of the Hospital at Punakha (phase I)

» Project 2:
Construction of the Training Centre for Technical-Medical Staff at Punakha

» Project 3:
Extension of the Punakha Hospital (phase II)

» Project 4:
Elaboration and execution of Master Plan for rehabilitation of National Institute for the Disabled in Khaling

» Project 5:
Construction of the first “School for Hearing-impaired (deaf-mute) Children with Hostels

» Project 6:
Re-construction of the roofed Cantilever Bridge at Punakha

» Project 7:
Secondment of German doctors to our Hospital at Punakha

» 8. Major New Projects

» 9. Projects in support of young Monks and of Nuns in Bhutan

» 10. Other secondments of personnel