Choki Wangmo | Tsirang

 A resident of Damphu, Migmar Gyeltshen Sherpa has spent most of his life in this small town. Only in the last few years, he felt that the town had become truly livable. 

The town saw a drastic change in the last two years with new inclusive structures and green spaces. The town feels like a botanical theme park. 

“Damphu is becoming beautiful; the town’s atmosphere has created suitable conditions for business,” said Migmar Gyeltshen Sherpa, who loves flowers and owns a flower shop in the town. 

Building on the initiative of former dzongdags who created the Rigsum Pemai Dumra, a recreational park in the centre of the town, the current dzongdag, Pema, has been emphasising on the importance of beautification work. 

Since early 2019, dzongkhag beautification officer Chhimi Dorji along with dzongkhag officials and stakeholders has been involved in creating a town in garden, a concept inspired by Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. 

We do not have resources like in other countries but we made use of what is available to us to create a livable town that gives out positive energy to residents and travellers, Chhimi Dorji said. “Town is important. If the town is aesthetically pleasing, it creates a happiness chain and auspicious conditions for goodness.”

Beautification work started two years ago

Those involved in beautification of the town planted flowers and plants in places where people used to dump waste. Such grey areas do not exist anymore.

Chhimi Dorji said that while preparing the land in the initial stage of the project, the team recovered tonnes of plastic waste. “By planting flowers in such areas, we are conveying a message to people about waste. After a while, people stopped littering.”

The town’s flower gardens are spread over a six-kilometre expanse. It is difficult to maintain flowers in winter due to lack of water. “However, we have strategies to deal with such problems. We grow water-tolerant hard plants in summer and drought-resistant plants in winter,” Chhimi Dorji said.

The dzongkhag administration has created a nursery to grow saplings. 

The town has wild cherry trees, flowering fruit trees, and petunias of different hues decorating the footpaths. Shrubs and trees fill empty spaces in the town.

Ugyen Phuntsho, a resident of Thimphu who recently moved to Damphu, said that he felt serene and peaceful upon entering the town. “There are many green spaces to enjoy unlike in Thimphu.”

Facilities such as children’s park, outdoor gym, disabled-friendly washrooms, swimming pool, football ground, and spiritual places, he said were sensibly located. “And they are all in good shape. Maybe this is what a sustainable city should look like.”

A shopkeeper, Zangmo, said she likes decorating the entrance of her shop with flowers. “The dzongkhag administration provides us with the flowers that must be planted in uniformity. And, who doesn’t love flowers?”

“I feel proud to live in this town because many say Tsirang is clean, green, and aesthetic compared to other dzongkhags,” said Migar Gyeltshen Sherpa, who regularly receives text messages from friends and relatives about the beauty of the town.

He remembers illegal dumping everywhere, a car workshop in the middle of the town, and ill-maintained structures. “It’s all changed now.”

Nar Maya Monger from Damphu agrees. “In the past, the place looked very dull and dirty.”

Chogyal Sherpa, a shopkeeper, said the changed town has invited more visitors. 

His Majesty The King’s Royal Bhutan Flower Exhibitions inspired Chhimi Dorji. 

He said that while starting the project, it was difficult but they have learned. “People stole flowers but then we kept replacing them. Now there are not many cases of theft. Communities are willing. Each building has a minimum of three flowers in Damphu town.”

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk