Almost a decade after a fire incident gutted 12 shops and residential houses in Wamrong Trashigang, the town is a booming business hub today.

Located about 81kms from Trashigang towards Samdrupjongkhar, the town initially started as motels for businessmen plying along the highway in the late 1980s.

“There were no concrete structures then. People travelling between Trashigang and Samdrupjongkhar used to hold nights at the temporary huts built by themselves,” Riserbo chiwog tshogpa, Tashi Dorji, said. “There was only one hut that used to serve food to the travellers.”

The tshogpa said that as the traffic along the highway increased, people from the nearby dzongkhags like Pemagatshel and Samdrupjongkhar started to settle in the area. “Makeshift huts operated as restaurants and general shops along the highway.”

However, a fire that started from one of the huts burnt down some 12 shops and residential houses in 2009. “We knew that if incase a fire incident occurred, everything would be burnt down and consequently it happened,” a shopkeeper, Karma Lhamo, said.

She said the incident, however, came as a blessing in disguise.

She said the fire victims were all granted land kidu although the structures were constructed on state land. “The victims also received timber as kidu at a subsidised rate for reconstruction.”

Karma Lhamo said a total of 61 households received the land kidu. “It was a gift from His Majesty The King for the loss incurred in the incident.”

She said as of today, most of the kidu recipients have constructed concrete buildings in the area. However, a few plots still remain empty.

The town is also equipped with some 25 fire hydrants to contain the fire if it ever breaks out again. Precautionary measures such as maintaining a safe distance of one metre between structures are also taken into consideration during the reconstructions of the town.

Wamrong drungpa, Sangay Phuntsho, said the design for the buildings are approved by the drungkhag engineers keeping in mind the safety of both the public and structures in times of disasters. “We have recently completed the construction of a 50 cubic metre fire-hydrant tank.”

He said that emergency mock drills would be conducted once the tank is handed over to the Royal Bhutan Police.

Meanwhile, some of the residents expressed concerns about the lack of roadside drainage in its parking area.

“During heavy rainfall, the rainwater overflows from the parking area and seeps into the ground,” the former tshogpa of the town, Sonam Thinley, said. “We are concerned that in the long run, the seepage would loosen the soil and cause landslides affecting the structures in the town.”

He said that due to the seepage, many tenants do not opt to stay in the ground floors of the buildings. “We have raised the issue many times, even to the Prime Minister, but nothing has been done so far.”

Drungpa Sangay Phuntsho said that Project DANTAK, who is currently undertaking the widening works of the Samdrupjongkhar-Trashigang highway would construct a proper drainage system in the town along with the widening works in the area.

“The dungkhag is aware of the issue and we have informed DANTAK officials to work on it as early as possible,” he said. “Had the widening works been under the Department of Roads, the drungkhag could have intervened if there was an immediate need.”

Younten Tshedup | Wamrong