Lack of a frequent public transport system in Zhemgang forces many to depend on lifts

Transport: Sangay Wangmo, 20, and Lemo, 26, were waiting for a vehicle at the dzong and Tingtibi junction in Zhemgang town at around 2pm on December 28. They were sitting in a small shelter built for people waiting for vehicles.

The two women along with their children waited for about an hour. Unsuccessful, they later moved to a fuel station, which is closer to the town towards Tingtibi and began their wait, hoping someone would give them a lift.

Like Sangay Wangmo and Lemo, it is a common sight to see people standing by the road with their luggage trying to hitch a ride with one of the passing vehicles in Zhemgang. This is because the dzongkhag does not have a convenient public transportation system.

Sangay Wangmo and Lemo were finally able to flag a DCM truck the next morning in which they travelled to the bank.
Sangay Wangmo said they have to come to the dzongkhag centre frequently since most institutions are located there. “Transportation has become a problem since the opening of the Wangdigang-Tingtibi bypass,” she said.

Sangay Wangmo waited the entire day for a lift and finally had to stay in town after not being able to find one. She said finding a ride back to Tingtibi is difficult. As a result, sometimes important work at home is missed.

“Before the Wangdigang-Tingtibi bypass was opened, busses, taxis and private cars travelled through Zhemgang town,” she said, adding that it was easy to get lifts then. Today, she said, most vehicles only come to Zhemgang town for fuel.

Lemo said not all private car drivers are willing to provide lifts. She pointed out that it is only those who are either religious or friendly that tend to take hitchhikers. “I would travel by taxi if available,” she said.

A civil servant was also looking for a vehicle to go until Dhakphai, about 8km from the town towards Tingtibi. With luggage all around him, he stood on the steps of a hotel eyeing every passing vehicle. The civil servant, who wished not be named, said he avoided coming to Zhemgang town because of this reason.

“I come only when there are meetings,” he said, adding that he attempted to do most work using the internet if possible.
“We can’t find taxis here neither do we have bus services,” he said.

A common tactic for people who don’t own their own vehicle but need to travel somewhere is to usually hang around the fuel station.

Another civil servant, who also wished not to be named, said it is difficult during emergencies since they are not allowed to drive government vehicles for unofficial work.

A resident of the town said the DCM truck that plies between Zhemgang and Gelephu is considered public transport but it comes to Zhemgang only on Mondays and Tuesdays. The dzongkhag does not have any public transport service otherwise.
Many people who owns buses and trucks are reluctant to operate between Zhemgang and other places given the small population of the town.

Nima Wangdi