Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

It is noon at Toribari, Phuentsholing. Kezang Choden baths her four-year-old son out in the open.

The water from the pipe, she uses, is from a stream about two km away from the affordable housing colony at Toribari.

The housing colony’s committee has arranged the water because the colony has been without water for the past one month. There are 17 buildings with 102 (families) units. Residents are desperate.

“It is more than a month without water supply in our homes,” said the mother.

Before moving to Toribari, after winning a lucky draw pick last year, Kezang Choden, a housewife, lived at Triveni Toll, across the border. Her family paid Nu 2,500 as monthly rent. And water was not an issue.

Today, her husband, a driver pays a rent Nu 3,957 for a two-bedroom apartment at the colony. With the daily burden of fetching water, Kezang Choden says living in Jaigaon was better.

“Initially, I felt better here, but it is getting difficult by the day,” she said.

In December 22, 2018, the National Housing Development Corporation Limited (NHDCL) allotted 506 affordable flats to Bhutanese living across the border. Although more than 1,200 people had registered for the facility, only 725 turned up at the lucky draw to contest for the 506 apartments.

The housing project started in July 2016 to address the acute shortage of affordable houses in Phuentsholing. Government spent about Nu 890 million (M) for the project. The houses were available to only those Bhutanese living across the border.

Under the project, 62 buildings were constructed in 10 different locations. Toribari has the highest number of affordable flats.

At Toribari, tenants have identified a member each from a building to form a support group called Toribari Housing Group (THG).

The representative of the committee, Pema Wangda said the water problem existed since day one.

Pema Wangda said that they have written to Phuentsholing Thromde. Thromde officials said that the colony is not within the thromde, he added. However, thromde accepted to supply drinking water.

Residents said thromde supplies 6,000 to 12,000 litres every alternate days from a tanker.

Colony residents said that there is confusion whether the colony is with the thromde or NHDCL.

“NHDCL say it is under thromde; thromde say it is not under them,” Pema Wangda said.

Tenants also said basic amenities should be the top priority at housing colonies.

THG committee has brought water from a nearby stream. People use it for washing. The committee purchased pipes from money members contributed. It has been about two weeks these pipes were connected to bring water at the colony. There are three connections.

Meanwhile, there are other problems that are of concern to the tenants at the housing colony.

Tenants said that the colony falls in a rural area. However, they pay utility bills as per the thromde rules.

A tenant, Karma Chedup said people are confused.

“We fall in rural category but we pay utility bills like electricity and water as per the thromde norms,” he said.

Tenant also said the rent they paid was no different from those in the town area. The highest a tenant paid at Toribari is Nu 6,770 per month.

Tenants said it was necessary to understand that Toribari is seven km away from Phuentsholing town. Travelling expenses should be considered.

A tenant, Sangay said he pays Nu 140 in taxi fair commuting between Toribari and Phuentsholing. It is Nu 30 using a city bus.

Tenants also submitted an appeal to the finance minister on May 15 regarding the monthly rent. There was no reply.

THG committee representative Pema Wangda said tenants were told the affordable housing units would be provided at Nu 3,000 and Nu 4,500 when the project commenced.

Meanwhile, waste is another problem. There is no waste management facility at the colony. Wastes are disposed openly at one identified location in the colony area.

“We don’t have a single dustbin here,” Pema Wangda said.

Pema Wangda said thromde truck lifts the waste twice or thrice every month, which has helped. But there should be some permanent solution, he said.