… says the works and human settlement minister 

Thromde: The government is mobilising funds for the development of 16 thromdes and 20 yenlag throms said the works and human settlement minister, Dorji Choden.

Lyonpo Dorji Choden provided responses to a number of questions on the development of thromdes during the National Council’s (NC) question hour session, yesterday.

Trongsa NC member, Tharchin, asked what the government is doing to develop the newly declared yenlag thromdes and 16 dzongkhag thromdes in terms of mobilising funds and professionals.

The minister responded that the 16 dzongkhag thromdes are not new towns and therefore, development in these towns need not start from scratch.

“They have existed from before with development in dzongkhag administrative centres and were managed by municipalities,” she said.

The minister added that the thromde maps of only Gasa and Pemagatshel thromdes were not implemented since both are new towns.

Though existing basic amenities across the towns in the country are not adequate to provide efficient services, the minister said that at least roads, drinking water, drainage, waste management and sewers are in place. All the 16 dzongkhag throms are also mapped.

“Some maps were made in 1996 while most were prepared from 2000,” she said, adding that while some of the maps are being revised, all will not need to be.

When it comes to the 20 yenlag thromdes, five have maps, as they were operating as satellite towns. For instance, Tshimasham and Rangjung were already satellite towns.

“New maps for five more yenlag thromdes will be ready by the end of this financial year,” Lyonpo Dorji Choden said, adding maps for the remaining 10 will be prepared later.

The government is planning to improve the existing basic amenities. “Therefore, the priority of the dzongkhag thromde should be on improving existing basic amenities,” the minister said.

Besides the budget from the current Plan, the government is mobilising funds from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and Government of India for construction and improvement of basic amenities and preparation of Local Area Plans.

“Further the government has also asked for more funds, which is now almost come through for the development of 20 yenlag thromdes and 16 dzongkhag throms,” the minister said. “Our priority is to provide proper and adequate basic amenities in these towns.”

The government has also allocated Nu 30 million for preparing Local Area Plans in 10 yenlag throms. On human resources, the minister said that it is working with the Royal Civil Service Commission on meeting the requirement of human resources such as urban planners, administrative and support staff.

The ministry has worked out the human resource requirements for medium and small dzongkhag thromdes. “As per our estimates while the small thromdes would require 15-20 employees, the medium ones would require 20-25 people,” she said, adding in total around 150 people including engineers, administrative and support staff, excluding contract workers would be required for the 16 thromdes.

But no human resources will be provided for the yenlag thromdes since the Local Government or dzongkhags will govern them. The ministry has also talked with the finance ministry on the current expenditure.

“The finance ministry has agreed to work on the current expenditure for manpower in dzongkhag thromdes,” Lyonpo Dorji Choden said.

Responding to Tharchin’s question on how the government is planning to ensure protection of wetland in the thromdes, the minister said proper measures are being taken. “While agricultural landscapes are identified for wetland protection, heritage villages and sites have been identified to ensure preservation of culture and tradition,” she said.

Tharchin also asked how the government is planning to keep the thromdes self-sustaining by introducing so many tax exemptions. To this, the minister said that the government introduced tax exemptions for the larger benefit of the people. “The residents of thromdes will be exempted from urban tax by accepting rural tax until the town expansion reaches their areas since higher urban tax is one thing people dread for being part of the towns,” the minister said.

People will also be entitled to rural building material subsidies like royalty free timber. The ministry also recently apprised dzongkhags on incentives for management of protected zones within thromdes. The protected zones include environmentally fragile areas, cultural landscapes, and buffer areas.

According to a circular issued by the ministry, the incentives include tax concessions and subsidies like rural tax, electricity, building materials and agricultural subsidy.

Meanwhile, Paro National Council member, Kaka Tshering asked what would happen to towns like Bjitsiphu and Dogar, which were neither included as yenlag throm nor as dzongkhag thromde. “Has the government planned anything on these small towns,” Kaka Tshering said.

The minister said that since the Constitution is liberal on the number of yenlag thromdes even these towns could become a throm in future. “Since the Constitution permits more than one yenlag throm, these towns could also be developed as towns. But until then the small unit of municipality in dzongkhags would ensure services to these towns,” Lyonpo Dorji Choden said.

Tempa Wangdi