Neten Dorji

Bumthang—Commuters travelling the lateral highway via Bumthang are happy with the upcoming fuel station at Rabten Zampa at Chumey which will reduce the detour of about 18 km just to fuel at Chamkhar in Bumthang. 

Being established by State Trading Corporation of Bhutan Limited (STCBL), the fuel depot at Rabten Zampa is scheduled to be completed and in operation by March 2024. 

In the absence of a fuel depot in Chumey, motorists had to endure long drives to the fuel depots in Chamkhar, Bumthang, located 18 kilometres away to refuel their vehicles and or LPG cylinders.

A bus driver, Sangay Penjor, said it was convenient for travellers to East Bhutan. “We had no choice but to travel to Bumthang town or refuel at Trongsa,” he said. 

Tashi, 39, who drives a Bolero, said people usually had to drive 25km to Bumthang town to fuel their cars from Gaytsa. “It is a waste of time and fuel but we have no choice,” he said. He added that he stored fuel in jerry cans at home.

The absence of a fuel depot in Chumey had also provided an opportunity for some unauthorised sale of fuel along the way for desperate travellers.  

“We had no choice but to sell fuel because some travellers or residents, who own vehicles, requested it,” confided a businessman requesting anonymity. “As we frequently travel to Bumthang for business, people started approaching us to purchase and store fuel here.”

A resident, Ugyen, said that once the new fuel station is established, drivers will be able to travel directly to Trongsa and Thimphu without the need to first go to Bumthang for refuelling. She added that resident of Chumey and neighbouring communities could not escape travelling frequently to Bumthang town to refill the petrol and diesel. 

A civil servant said it was also difficult for residents to refill their cooking gas cylinders. Sometimes, after travelling to Bumthang to purchase a cylinder, they would find that the depot had run out of stock, he said. “This was one of the biggest challenges we faced in the absence of a gas station,” he said.

“To refill gas cylinders, people must take a reserved taxi paying Nu 1000 each time,” said Karma Lhamo, who runs a business.  

Residents said that a fuel station had become a necessity in the gewog as the number of vehicles travelling has been growing.

STCBL’s general manager for petroleum division, Sugan Pradhan, said 95 percent of civil work and 50 percent of electrical work has been completed and the depot will be ready by March 2024.

STCBL has installed 35,000 litres of petrol and 45,000 litres of diesel underground tanks for seamless supply of fuel for the commuters. The STCBL also has plans to build a facility for cooking gas cylinders separately in the near future.