Younten Tshedup  | Gelephu

Three years on, the industrial service centre (ISC) in Gelephu still is not fully developed.

While plot owners blame thromde administration for not providing basic facilities such as stable water and electricity connection, thromde maintain that all basic amenities are already put in place.

In an effort to thrash out the differences and expedite works at the ISC, a stakeholders’ meeting was held on February 18 in Gelephu.

Besides understanding the issues and finding possible solutions, the meeting was also held to inform plot owners of the growing number of lessees defaulting on their monthly payments.

Gelephu Thrompon, Tikaram Kafley, said that only about five percent of the defaulters turned up for the meeting. “Many of these defaulters have not made the payment ranging from five months to a year.”

According to the lease contract, failure to pay the lease fee for more than two months could lead to possible termination of the contract.

A notice with a time extension of two months would be sent to all the defaulters within this week, said the thrompon. “Failure to make the payments during this time would leave us with no option but to terminate their contracts.”

He said that this was not the first time that these people were absent during a consultation meeting. “We have been very considerate and have provided them with enough time. This would be their final opportunity.”

Thromde officials said that there are about 18 lease defaulters. Besides the defaulters, it was learnt that about 38 plot owners have not completed their construction works. A final extension until June was also given to these plot owners.

Thromde officials made it clear that until all construction works are completed, the roads at ISC would not be blacktopped.

Of the many concerns raised during the meeting, ISC operators expressed the need to immediately blacktop the roads as it was affecting their businesses.

The centre’s general secretary, Kamal Pradhan, said that dust is a major problem at ISC. “We are losing our customers daily because of the dusty roads. Because of this many Bhutanese are visiting workshops across the border.”

He said that if thromde could start blacktopping the roads, the economic status of the centre could improve. “Just because of a few individuals who have not completed their construction, the whole community is affected.”

Thrompon Tikaram Kafley said that since there were ongoing construction activities in various locations, blacktopping at this stage would not be effective. “Construction activities could damage the road which is why we want to do it once all constructions are completed.”

Another plot owner, Sonam Dorji said that there was no adequate water supply for water-intensive units like brick factories and car wash centres. “Without proper lighting system, security is another challenge at the ISC currently.”

He said that incidences of theft and vandalism were increasing at the centre in the absence of a boundary wall. “Most of the streetlamps that were installed last year are broken down. There is a need to check the quality of materials that are being used at the centre.”

With the monsoon season nearing, the need to have a stormwater drainage system was also highlighted during the meeting. “Without a stable drainage system, those factories located below would suffer during monsoon.”

The thrompon said that the office is working on a drainage master plan, which would take care of all the wastewater and sewerage in the town. “Erratic weather conditions and lightning strikes have broken the wiring and bulbs in most of the streetlamps. We are replacing them with better ones.”

He said, “Although we have provided most of the services at the ISC, we might not have covered all. We are continuing our efforts to develop the centre and we need continued and full cooperation from all the plot owners.”

The ISC located under Tashiling demkhong spreads across 111.5 acres. A total of 110 plots (46.4 acres) were leased since January 2017 for a period of 30 years.

The centre houses all the automobile workshops, car wash centres, scrap and open stockyards, spare parts shops, godowns, manufacturing and fabrication units, among others.