Traffic: Traffic diversion in Phuentsholing town since last month has managed to address vehicle congestion but has affected business in town.
Following a coordination meeting last month, it was made mandatory for all vehicles entering Phuentsholing town to route via the Toorsa riverside road to get to their respective destinations.
However, businesses are now complaining that the diversion has led to many potential customers driving straight across the border to shop. And shoppers return straight home without having to enter the town.
Grocery stores are affected the most.
The owner of Thukten General Store at Goede Lam said that their business has been drastically hit. “We couldn’t do business during the peak season unlike in the past,” she said.
When considering business income tax, the grocery shop owner said that it is also an indirect loss to the government. “Not just those who own vehicles but even villagers are facing problems,” she added.
Taxi drivers, however, are charging about Nu 150 from the pervious fare of Nu 50 and Nu 100. The escalation is a result of the longer distance and rough road cabbies have to travel.
Another retail shop owner, Umesh Prasad, said that taxis are not allowed to park in front of shops for a long time. This has led to many potential customers not buying products from Phuentsholing but from the Indian border town. “Our business has dropped by almost 50 percent,” he said.
Umesh Prasad is worried when the agencies concerned will revert back to the previous traffic system so that business will improve.
Departmental stores such as Zimdra have also started to see fewer customers after traffic was diverted. Store manager Bikash Sharma said that business was affected with a drop of almost 10 to 15 percent.
Meanwhile, Bhutan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (BCCI) representative in Phuentsholing, Lobzang Tshering, said that he received information from three businessmen verbally. “But we have not received any submission in written,” he said.
Lobzang Tshering said they have nothing to submit to the thromde for now. The representative had also participated during the coordination meeting.
Phuentsholing Thrompon Uttar Kumar Rai said even the thromde has not heard of the issue yet. “Our intention was only to decongest the town for people’s sake,” he said, explaining various stakeholders were also present when they reached the decision.
Uttar Kumar Rai said that the thromde will look into the issue if the business community approaches the thromde. Following the traffic diversion, the thrompon said that many people have started to walk to office.
As of now, the thromde office has not announced any update on a change in diversion. The traffic diversion began on a trial basis but it was continued as it managed to address the congestion problem.
With winter almost over, there are not many vehicles in town now and traffic congestion has eased to an extent.
Meanwhile, even the parking lot business has been affected following the diversion.
Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing