Lhakpa Quendren

Gelephu — After missing several deadlines, Gelephu’s integrated vegetable shed is finally nearing its completion, by the end of September this year.

The construction of the shed started in February 2021, with the completion date scheduled for January 2022. But the thromde had to extend the deadline three times after the contractor could not meet the deadline.

Despite several extensions, Chukha Construction Private Limited once again requested for an extension until the end of September from the latest deadline, which was scheduled for September 21.

Construction’s site supervisor Ganesh Tamang said that they would implement the work schedule for night shifts to ensure timely completion. “We have currently over 30 labourers working at the site.”

As of now, about 90 percent of the structure has been completed, and electrification works are underway. Painting and flooring works remain to be completed. 

Ganesh Tamang said that construction faced several challenges during the pandemic, including a shortage of labourers and an escalation of the cost of construction materials. “Even when the labourers were available, the wage for local labourers was high.”

“Initially, we employed about 50 Bhutanese labourers, including students, who were paid a daily wage of Nu 1,000 per person. But the progress remained very slow for almost a year due to lack of skilled workers in the local workforce,” he said, adding that the work progress improved only after lifting the restrictions, which allowed the import of labourers.

Heavy rainfall and the congested site with a big drain behind the construction site have also hampered the work progress.

“We requested for the extension till December of this year during the second deadline revision. But we were given only a four-month extension,” he said.

The payment schedule between the contractor and the thromde, with the thromde releasing funds only after the completion of specific stages of the project, also contributed to the delay, Ganesh Tamang said.

Gelephu Thrompon Tshering Norbu said that the construction took place during the pandemic period. “Despite these challenges, the contractor did not abandon the works.”

Loday Jamtsho, a vendor, said that they had been eagerly waiting for the new shed due to several issues associated with the current vegetable shed. Rain seeped in through the shed during the monsoon and the direct heat under the CIG sheet created discomfort for vendors. “Without CCTV cameras, shops are vulnerable to theft.”

At the deteriorating shed, he said, the dirty water from the waste, which is piled above the shed, enters during the rainy season, which makes the site unhygienic. “The new shed has all the facilities, including public toilets that are lacking at the old shed.”

Meanwhile, the owners of small businesses set up in the current vegetable market are worried about their businesses since the thromde plans to convert the vegetable shed into a parking space after the new integrated vegetable shed is complete.

Sonam Yangzom, who sells religious items, said that her business would not be able to survive if they were asked to vacate the space. “I have looked for space in the town before I established my business four months ago. But the monthly rent for a tiny space is Nu 18,000, which is much higher than what I earn from the business.”

Tshering Norbu said, “This is also our concern. We will try to accumulate as many as possible depending on the availability of spaces.”

The two-storeyed integrated vegetable shed, opposite the current shed has 64 compartments, along with meat shops, attached public toilets, and an unloading shed, among others.

The project is funded by the Government of India’s small grants project at Nu 44 million.