The Centenary Farmers’ Market (CFM) in the capital city will be closed in two months. In other words, the thromde has managed to decongest a busy part of the capital city. It is a good decision.
The CFM is recognised as a high-risk area and with challenges in controlling the crowd, the thromde decided to relocate the hundreds of vendors across the city. To be fair to those who managed the market, the CFM is well organised. It is even a tourist spot where the management is lauded for its management of the market. It is clean and an example of how rules work when implemented strictly.
However, outside the market, it is a mess. It is the most congested place for four days in a week. Why should all the city’s people rush to the CFM to buy vegetables? The idea of spreading vegetable shops across the city is good. It will not only decongest the CFM, but also make vegetables available at all places. There are vendors around the city, but with the CFM known to be the big market, many still wait for the weekend to visit the CFM.
A day after the decision, some vendors are appealing to the government. The thromde should not budge. Decongesting the city should be the priority. We cannot have all the offices, business and markets in one area. We have opened up the city from Dechenchholing to Debsi. There are spaces and making use of it will help decongest the city.
We had a grand plan to build Thimphu as a dream city two decades ago. We are still dreaming. When the once rice fields were included in the town planning, the plan, based on a concept of intelligent urbanism, was to balance development with nature and heritage, making it convivial and efficient. Thimphu city was to have adequate space to work, drive, jog, cycle, picnic, relax and be close to nature while preserving the traditional Bhutanese outlook.
The idea now is how to decongest it. We had to wait for a pandemic to implement our grand plans. But like we say, it is better late than never. We should take cue from what the Covid-19 pandemic taught us. It is not only building vegetable markets across the city, what is now known as zones. The concept of zone is also not new. If we had implemented the commercial or residential zones, for instance, we would have people, banks, offices and businesses wanting to move out of Norzin or Chang Lam.
As we learn from mistakes, let the decision on CFM be the beginning. Let there be bolder decisions to not attract everyone to the already congested city. Concepts like Sunday or Farmers’ market should be encouraged. As everybody sells from the CFM, the only beneficiaries are the middlemen. Farmers and consumers are at the receiving end of the unreasonable profit middlemen make.
As we emphasise on agriculture as an important alternative, market, fair price mechanism and facility could make farming more attractive. A farmer could choose to take his chilies or beans to any of the vegetable markets in the city. Today, they are at the whims of the CFM vendors, especially when they have to return home on the same day.