Delay blamed on shortage of workers, bureaucratic procedures and now Covid-19

Nima  | Gelephu

The Jigmeling Industrial Estate in Sarpang is today a vast span of forest land with paved roads and streetlight poles, but empty and abandoned.

Spreading over 730 acres of flatland and forest along the Sarpang-Gelephu highway in Jigmeling, it is expected to be the biggest industrial park that would generate employment opportunities in the country.

Construction of basic facilities like road network and electricity supply is underway. The project has constructed reservoir tanks that would support around three constructions at the site.

Project officials working at the site said the industrial development could not progress because of delay in getting clearances and permits from relevant agencies. Water supply was also the main problem that hampered works at the site.

Project Engineer, Sonam Tharchen said the project achieved close to 65 percent of physical work progress. Physical works includes building of a boundary wall and a 21km road. Of the total, 19km of road is completed and 11km remains to be blacktopped.

“We could not get skilled labour for blacktopping works because of the pandemic. We are not able to procure material required today,” he said. “The construction of basic infrastructure would be completed by 2023.”

Once complete, the industrial estate will have over 16 plots running mineral-based industries, 49 forests and wood-based, and 54 food and agro-based trades.

Of the total 47 plots allotted to interested investors, only 17 plot owners have started to fasten their work plans like obtaining a license, seeking environmental clearances, and managing funds so far, according to project officials.

Kezang Wangdi, owner of Tradoen Manufacturing Pvt. Ltd. planned to start construction on his plot in April this year but had to postpone because of the ongoing pandemic.

He said challenges are aplenty while trying to start a firm at the park. “The first challenge is the bureaucratic procedures that took almost nine months to complete. The approval processes are lengthy,” he said. “For a land permit, I was stuck in the dzongkhag for almost four months.”

He added that basic facilities like water and electricity supply are not readily available at the park. “Although they have constructed a tank there is no waterline and also no electricity. However, I was assured of the required facilities while starting the construction,” said Kezang Wangdi.

Project officials said works to tap water temporarily from Rateykhola, a nearby stream, to support construction at the park is ongoing. Permanent supply of water would be drawn from Bhur gewog that is 8km away from the park.

A Royal Audit Authority (RAA) last month pointed out incomplete work despite time extensions and outstanding liability for water supply at the Industrial Estate, amounting to Nu 4.30M.

The report stated that the industrial activity was not picking up for the lack of water supply at the park.

The planning for industrial estates began in the 10th Plan while the economic affairs ministry received a budget sometime in the middle of the 11th Plan. Actual works like providing electricity, temporary water supply, and access roads began in 2016.