It was the only dzongkhag in the country without one until yesterday

Service: The people of Gasa will no longer have to drive for more than three hours to Punakha to refuel their vehicles or to get gas cylinders for cooking, with the dzongkhag  inaugurating its first fuel station at Kolikha yesterday.

With a population of a little over 3,000, Gasa was the last dzongkhag to get a fuel station in the country. The facility comes more than two decades after Gasa was separated from Punakha to become a separate dzongkhag.

Tashi Bhutan Oil Distributors has constructed the fuel station with financial support and technical assistance from the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd.

The trade department’s deputy chief programme officer, Tshering, said establishment of the fuel station will not only benefit the people of Gasa but is also critical for the socio-economic development of the country. Discussions to establish a fuel station in Gasa were held between the trade department and the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd in August, last year, he said.

Tshering said that today there are 48 fuel and gas stations across the country, of which Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd has 20 while the Indian Oil Corporation Ltd has 27.

Gasa Dzongrab Chewang Jurmi said the establishment of a fuel station has already been listed in the dzongkahg’s 11th Plan.  However, since it was delayed, the people of Gasa had informed the Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay about its immediate need, during the mid-term review. The people of Gasa are content since the station is being established within this year as assured by the prime minister, he said.

Chewang Jurmi said following problems being faced due to fuel shortages and having to rush all the way to Punakha during emergencies, the dzongkhag had begun storing  two barrels of fuel as backup. The dzongkhag reconstruction project also has fuel stored in several barrels as back up.

Without a station for fuel and gas, people have had to travel for more than three hours to Punakha which was not without problems. The road is either blocked by landslides or washed away during monsoons.

Dzongkhag officials said that for the last two days, the dzongkhag’s power got cut-off due to trees falling on transmission lines. This happens at least four times a month, during which offices and homes have to be lit up using generators. In some cases, fuel for generators are exhausted thereby hampering office work.

Local leaders said the station will benefit farmers and those dependent on income sources that require fuel-powered equipment like chainsaws. It will also eliminate  expenses required to travel to Punakha.

Local leaders said that with limited vehicles plying on the Gasa road, it is difficult to get a ride to Punakha and those available are expensive. It costs Nu 650 to 900 per person to travel in a taxi from Punakha to Gasa, and during emergencies people even have had to call taxis from Punakha which results in the cost doubling.

The economic affairs minister, Lekey Dorji inaugurated the fuel station at Kolikha.

Dawa Gyelmo | Wangdue