Yangyel Lhaden 

The bamboo fencing, tall and painted green, tries to hide the capital’s junkyard. It worked when the yard was half-filled. Not anymore.

On the banks of Olarongchu (stream) that is about to meet the Thimchhu lies a junkyard that perhaps indicates how much waste the capital city is generating. It is not degradable waste, but old cars – of all models and brands. From the cheap Maruti to third country imports that had served the country’s development process and retired and abandoned. More than 300 ‘dead bodies’  of vehicles  of all brands occupy a vast land on the left bank of Olarongchhu that was once proud paddy fields belonging to Babesa and Olakha farmers.

The same place was identified as the interstate bus terminal a long time ago . Today, it wears a dirty look with waste piling up in the area. Makeshift structures operating businesses such as fabrication units, scrap dealers and driving schools occupies the area.

Nine years ago,  the Thimphu Thromde planned to relocate the current bus terminal at Lungtenzampa to the seven-acre land identified at Olarongchhu. The idea was that the area would be the nodal point for passenger transport services to start and end. Taxis and private vehicles would pick up and drop passengers so that the core city is not crowded.

It remained a grand idea on paper.

Thimphu thromde could not convert the area into an interstate bus terminal. A landowners, according to many including thromde officials sabotaged the plan.  There were about 25 landowners who contributed land to thromde. One did not and the plan was stalled. The junkyard belongs to the sole landowner. 

Head of Land Record and Survey Division under Thimphu Thromde, Sonam Tobgay, said  that for over a decade, the thromde had been trying to negotiate with the landowner for his land, but in vain. “ The illegal settlement started on the man’s land as  the thromde will never allow the landowner to construct buildings.”

He said that the landowner refused to the thromde’s plan as he owned several plots of land and declined the thromde’s offer of cash compensation.  “The landowner did not accept cash compensation as  Olarongchhu falls under UV2 ( urban village 2)  and the government rate is only Nu 188,485 per decimal.”

Sonam Tobgay said thromde has issued three eviction notices to the landowner and business operators in the area to clear the area since 2012.

The recent eviction notice to the landowner and business operators was sent on July 16, 2021 asking business operators – that includes the owner of the junkyard and several small businesses –  to demolish temporary structures built in this area within three months from the date of issuance of  this notice.

Sonam Tobgay said thromde was going to take stern action if the structures are not demolished. “We are prepared to construct the interstate bus terminal as soon as the place is cleared.”

Meanwhile, a scrap dealer in the area said the scrap business solved the waste issue in the country. “ Only during the pandemic, we are not able to export.”

The only benefit, as of today, is to vehicle owners who are desperately looking for spare parts. The yard operator supplies all sorts of used parts from the hundreds of vehicles that are dumped in his yard.