Business: As the Damchhu bypass nears completion, Tshimasham residents grow more concerned.

With traffic expected to move to the bypass when it opens mid-next year, their main worry is how they will repay their loans.

More than half of the buildings in Tshimasham were constructed with loans which are still being repaid, according to local business persons.

It was pointed out that returns from the buildings are already inadequate. “Loan repayment is already difficult,” Lhakpa Tshering, the owner of LT Tshongkhang and the building it is housed in, said.

He estimates up to 70 percent of business being lost with the opening of the Damchhu bypass.

“Our main customers are hotels and restaurants,” the businessman said. “When their business is down, ours will also go down.”

Although the dzongkhag’s administration staff and employees of other agencies will continue to remain customers, Lhakpa Tshering said their impact on business is miniscule. He pointed out that most still prefer to purchase goods from Phuentsholing.

The businessman said he does not make more than Nu 50,000 a month from his building.

ABC Hotel owner Sonam Phuntsho is also concerned about how he will be able to sustain his loan repayments. “With buses and other vehicles changing their travel route there will be no income,” he said. “I haven’t repaid all my loans.”

Sonam Phuntsho had considered opening a restaurant on the bypass. However, he was not able to find a suitable plot of land to lease along the road.

Some will move their businesses to the bypass. Kencho Dorji who runs a restaurant in the town is one of the few who has bought land along the bypass.

“I want to shift my business there,” he said. “It should work as I’m sure vehicles will not travel on the old road once the bypass is completed.” However, he said for businesses to succeed on the bypass, water and electricity supply has to be provided.

The owner of the only restaurant at Bunagu, Kuenzang Wangdi said hotels and grocery shops will close once the bypass is completed.

Kuenzang Wangdi also plans to move his business to the bypass.

Meanwhile, Wangkha is expected to grow once the Damchhu bypass is opened to traffic. Businesses in Tshimasham are looking to invest in this stretch of the Phuentsholing-Thimphu highway to start new restaurants.

Namgay, the owner of Karma Hotel, one of the oldest in Tshimasham will start constructing a building at Wangkha soon. “I just got the approval,” he said.

He added that Tshimasham will become a “dead town”.

“Two buildings were seized by the banks some years ago,” he said, adding that many more will follow.

Meanwhile, there are still some who are disgruntled with the government for not considering their requests. They said that their opinions on the adverse impact the bypass would have on their businesses had been voiced to the government but to no avail.

Rajesh Rai | Tshimasham