Neten Dorji | Trashigang

Trashigang-Samdrupjongkhar highway, once one of the busiest routes with many vehicles plying through the narrow road, has now become idle.

A 73-year-old resident, Sangay Phuntsho, said as the only route for four eastern dzongkhags, more than 200 trucks ply via the route every day but now only a few trucks and light vehicles use the route now.

Residents of Khaling and Wamrong say the opening of 77kms Gyelpozhing-Nganglam highway in 2018 reduced the traffic congestion on the route but has also affected them.

Hoteliers and restaurant owners in Wamrong, who started business along the Trashigang-Samdrupjongkhar highway, said it affected them most.

A hotelier, Motilal Biswa, said Wamrong town started as a lunch point for travellers in the late 1960s.

He has been running a restaurant for more than six years. “Before the opening of the highway, more than 40 customers visit my restaurant every day but now only about 10 people stop for lunch.”

He said that it is challenging for him to sustain the business. “Without many travellers, we could go out of business and default our loans.”

Motilal  pay Nu 8,000 a month in house rent.

Some are wondering if the government could allow regional tourists to come via Samdrupjongkhar. They claim lifting the restriction on entry and exit of regional tourists from Samdrupjongkhar could help in addressing the issue.

A hotelier said they hope the government would soon lift the restriction as discussed in the current parliament session.

A restaurant owner, Jigme, said business is not viable anymore. “Something has to be done.”

He said only business people who owns house and do not have to pay rent could survive in the town.

Another businessman, Tshewang Norbu, said he availed a loan more than Nu 2 million from bank to start the business. “Earlier, I earn Nu 9,000 but now it is difficult to earn Nu 3,000 a day.”

He said the government should intervene and allow tourists to come via Samdrupjongkhar to help eastern dzongkhags. “It would also help to create employment too.”