Thromde: Proprietors of businesses and residents located along Norzin Lam have appealed to the Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), not to permanently close the street to vehicular traffic.

More than 50 shopkeepers and house-owners along Norzin Lam expressed their disagreement to BCCI officials yesterday.

Thimphu thromde plans to permanently turn Norzin Lam into a pedestrian zone from end of next year. It will start to close the street to vehicular traffic on the first Sunday of every month starting June this year.

A businessman, C Dorji Pila, said that Norzin Lam is one of the main commercial streets in Bhutan and closing the street to vehicular traffic would hamper the livelihood of hundreds of shopkeepers located on the street.

“We see about 60 percent of the shops along Norzin Lam closed because of less customers when the street is closed during festive occasions like Tshechus,” C Dorji Pila said.

He added that one of the reasons provided for closing Norzin Lam is that double-parking of vehicles makes the street look ugly and congested.

The two multi-level car parks cannot solve the vehicle parking issue as the number of vehicles increases every year. Closing Norzin Lam will make drivers park their vehicles at the ring roads, worsening the traffic congestion problem, Dorji Pila said.

Another business owner said that the road that passes through Hong Kong market is already congested with vehicles, and that traffic would be even worse after Norzin Lam is closed.

It was also pointed out that waste management along the street will also become an issue.

A house owner in Norzin Lam, Sonam Rinchen, said that some of the buildings in the street are under construction and without vehicle access to doorsteps, it would be difficult to complete the construction.

“Majority of the shopkeepers and house owners in Norzin Lam are struggling to pay loans and closing the street for vehicular traffic would kill their businesses as well as financially kill the people living in the Norzin Lam,” Sonam Rinchen said.

The business owners and residents urged BCCI officials to send a copy of the petition to the Prime Minister and do away with the resolution to close the street.

BCCI’s president Aum Phub Zam said that BCCI officials will first talk with the thrompon about the issue.

A house owner said that Thimphu thromde should have consulted with the public and relevant stakeholders before coming up with such resolutions because it affects them.

The house owner said that shopkeepers in Norzin Lam pay high taxes and closing Norzin Lam permanently will affect the thromde’s revenue as well.

A shopkeeper, Tshering Tobgay, suggested Thimphu thromde work on improving the water supply, drainage system and sewerage, as these are problems that still exist along Norzin Lam, rather than focusing on closing the street.

Meanwhile, a resident of Norzin Lam, Yeshi Khandu, said that his family have two cars and if the street is closed then he will have to park his vehicles away from his flat which could be risky.

“If the decision comes through, I will have to move to some other locality,” Yeshi Khandu said.

Another shopkeeper, Lhakpa Dorji, said that this is not the first time the thromde proposed to close Norzin Lam to vehicular traffic. Shopkeepers and house owners had submitted a petition to the thromde, requesting a review of the thromde’s proposal of closing the street in April, last year.

The decision to close Norzin Lam to vehicular traffic on the first Sunday of every month starting June this year was one of the resolutions of the Thimphu thromde tshogde, which was held last month.

The purpose of the resolution is to make people adapt to the permanent closure of the street after the two multi-level car parks in the city are complete.

Thimphu Thrompon Kinlay Dorjee said that closing Norzin Lam to vehicular traffic is a part of Thimphu’s structural plan that has been approved by Cabinet.

“The thromde has to implement the structural plan,” he said.

 Dechen Tshomo