Choki Wangmo | Tsirang

Tsirang’s only swimming pool in Damphu Town started with much fanfare last year. After a year, if not for the canteen, the pool is almost deserted. The couple who operates the pool is struggling to pay the monthly rent of Nu 40,000.

The pool operator Namgay Thinley said that in the earlier stage of opening, people from the gewogs visited the swimming pool with excitement. Due to heavy monsoons in summer and cold winters, the pool is functional only for about four months a year.

“We have to generate income to pay utility bills, staff salary, and other expenses. But we get customers in April, May, September, and October and children go to schools during weekdays,” he said, adding that there are no users of the facility.

They have to pay a water bill of Nu 7,000.

The pool barely attracts 20 people in a week. Visitors are seen at the pool during warm weather.

The couple hoped that as it was earlier planned, constructing a roof and installing a heating system with the help of the dzongkhag administration would improve the business but couldn’t install these services as of now.

“During monsoon, without a roof, there is no good place for people to relax and enjoy. Parents refuse to bring their children out in the rain during such weather,” Namgay Thinley said.

He said that if the dzongkhag administration doesn’t improve the services, the situation would remain the same at the town’s only recreational spot. The couple has no plans to renew the contract in the future.

To diversify income sources, the couple tried to build permanent structures to dine and relax but they were not allowed to build any such structures.

Located between Damphu public football ground and Damphu Municipal office, the swimming pool has bathrooms, washrooms and separate pools for children and adults.

Namgay Thinley said that during the pandemic, he asked for a certain percent of rent waiver as he was running into losses but there were coordination and monitoring issues among the officials in responding to the requests. “I applied for a waiver in January and received the reply in March.” However, they received 50 percent waiver for two months during peak of the pandemic.

They received the second communication recently from the district administration but did not get the rent waiver for other months, pool operator Dechen said.

With only one inlet, it takes about two days to fill up the pools. According to the terms, operators have to change pool water twice a month. The water reservoir tank at the site was found to be non-functional.

The district administration constructed the facility at a cost of over Nu 4 million.