Business: While bypasses can cut down travel time and costs for travellers, they could also cause business to dwindle in towns.

This is the case in the once bustling Zhemgang town.

Vehicles travelling to Gelephu now use the Wangdigang-Tingtibi bypass, instead of going through the town.

Business people in the town are concerned. With the number of people visiting Zhemgang decreasing every year, residents are worried that businesses will flounder.

A hotelier said buses and taxis used to go through Zhemgang town a few years ago. Travellers would stop for meals and to shop.

“You don’t see any bus and taxi in Zhemgang today,” he said.

Given the situation, business is down and some are already looking for shop spaces in Sarpang. Residents also said that a few businesses are already in the process of shifting to other dzongkhags.

Pema Tshering, 61, who runs a shop said the number of customers decreased drastically after the opening of the Wangdigang-Tingtibi bypass. “The town has become like a Gonpa (monastery) today,” he said.

Pema Tshering said not many people live in the town anymore. They drive to Gelephu to shop on Saturdays and return on Sundays. School students rarely venture into the town. “There are no customers other than those who buy mobile voucher cards,” he said.

He pointed out that he is in a better situation as his business is located in his own house and he does not have to pay rent. There are some 52 shops in Zhemgang.

Another hotelier who chose anonymity said she is already looking for a hotel space in Gelephu but she could not find one. “I went to Gelephu twice looking for a space but could not find and I have asked my friends to help me find one,” she said.

The women said it seems like the government has no plans of setting up any institutions like colleges, in the town, which could boost business. “I need to get out of here soon,” she said.

She added that schools have their own canteens and the dzongkhag is in the process of setting up one for themselves. “No trucks, buses and taxis come here and not even a single conference or meeting takes place here,” she said.

She pointed out that she does not earn even a thousand Ngultrums a day.

Nima Wangdi | Zhemgang