Township: Faded wooden houses. Rusting roofs. Disintegrated roads. This is the state of Gola Bazaar in Sipsu today.
But in five years, this should be history.
The grey and weary town will have 52 uniform two-storey buildings by 2020.
What brings this long awaited planned development is the thrams 52 residents received on December 5, last year.
There are about five people at Gola Bazaar who will start construction immediately.
One of them, Shiva Raj Ghalley, is a busy person these days shifting his belongings from his shop at Gola Bazaar to his house in Belbotay, some four kilometres away.
“All my documents are ready,” he said. “I just need a signature to go ahead to start my construction.”
Shiva Raj Ghalley said he needed to get the final sanction from the dzongkhag. The Gola Bazaar resident is not able to get this work done because the government officials in Samtse are currently busy attending to the ongoing Moenlam Chenmo.
Rinzin Gyeltshen, another thram holder is also upbeat to start construction.
“If I get the permission from the dzongkhag administration, I will start construction the next day,” he said. “Everything is ready.”
Rinzin Gyeltshen, with one of his cousins, will construct a two-storey building at Gola Bazaar.
Meanwhile, all the residents, despite small differences in the current land holding, have been given 5.5 decimals each. The new buildings will have to be built within this area. At present, there are semi-permanent structures and wooden structures.
It is also not only the receiving of thrams and intentions of the people that will hasten transformation of this old town. Other infrastructure development aspects are being simultaneously considered and pursued.
A project to place a ring road has already been tendered out. It is one of the important elements of the Gola Bazaar township development. A new water source has also been identified. Located more than seven kilometres away from the town, the new source, residents say, is “very clean.”
A businessman at Gola Bazaar, Ranjit Gurung, who is also a former Sipsu gup said the new water source will not be polluted as there are no settlements at the source. Construction has already started.
However, the plot owners are not sure about the drainage system. Although they said it is necessary, they also accepted it would totally depend on what the government decides.
Meanwhile, it is not only in Sipsu and Samtse that Gola Bazaar is considered the oldest town. It is also one of the oldest towns in the country, some said. The town existed before Samtse town started in 1960s.
Residents used to pay their regular taxes until 1992. From 1993, nobody has paid land taxes until today. The town was initially planned to shift to Belbotay. However, residents requested that the town not be shifted then.
Norpen, 72, originally from Sombaykha, Haa, now settled in Sipsu remembers the town from 1952.
“It has remained the same,” he said, adding there was a time when the haat (market) was engaged right at the centre of the town.
Norpen is also waiting for the construction mapping, which according to him has been given to a consultant in Thimphu. He will start construction of his house within this year.
Although Gola Bazaar will don a new look in another five years, businessmen here will still have to face Belbotay haat for business. The Sunday haat is a pain to the town’s businessmen.
Most of the people in Sipsu flock to the nearby haat to shop on Sundays. With almost everything available in Belbotay haat, the shops at Gola Bazaar are left with only a few customers, residents and shopkeepers say.
Some years ago, people had also raised the issue with the dungkhag administration in Sipsu. A proposal to allow Belbotay haat to sell only vegetables went unheeded. From basic household necessities to all other items, everything is available in Belbotay haat.
Bhutanese traveling to Jitti border and Nagarkata for shopping is also another challenge the businessmen of Gola Bazaar faced.
However, the Gola Bazaar residents are content that the government has offered their businesses a tax-free situation. And with thrams in their hands, their focus has shifted to constructing houses now.
Rajesh Rai, Sipsu