Hoteliers in Trashigang would avail the commercial liquid petroleum gas (LPG) supplied by Bhutan Industrial Gas (BIG) from November 26, according to a letter the regional trade office in Mongar sent to the Trashigang thromde thuemi.

Trade officials said that a truckload of BIG cylinders containing 180 cylinders would arrive in Trashigang by evening yesterday.

A Trashigang resident, Sonam Norbu, started to operate as the BIG cylinder agent again after stopping it for almost a month.

The hoteliers and the thromde thuemi had earlier said that they had not received refills on their BIG cylinder for almost seven months.

“It’s been about 19 days since I stopped working as an agent. I do not understand why people say it’s been seven months,” said Sonam Norbu. “I supplied the gas until last month and there were hardly any takers.”

The last empty BIG cylinder Sonam Norbu sold was on September 3.

He, however, said that he continued to provide the refills until last month.

“Hoteliers are mandated to use BIG cylinders but there are many who still use the subsidised LPG,” he said. “Those hoteliers who have bought one or two cylinders hardly come for refills.”

The agent said that without many takers, a truckload of BIG cylinders would last for almost four months in the dzongkhag. “If all the hoteliers used BIG cylinders, 180 cylinders would hardly last for a month.”

Sonam Norbu keeps Nu 50 on each cylinder and also charges Nu 150 to deliver the cylinders to the hoteliers whenever requested. The outlet is located about 2.5km from the main town.

“I was getting Nu 9,000 in four months. It was difficult for me to continue this which is why I requested the trade office to help,” he said. “Despite the department’s warnings, things did not improve which is why I decided to quit since there was no profit in the business and people made irrational complains.”

Trade department’s officiating regional director in Mongar, Karma Tshewang Rinzin, said that the shortage of BIG refills in Trashigang was following the decision of the agent to quit the service.

He said that after knowing the issue, the department as an interim measure directed the Bhutan Oil Distributor (BOD) to facilitate hoteliers with green gas until the BIG stock was made available.

The green gas is a non-subsidised gas introduced to supplement the existing quota on subsidised LPG. Each household was eligible for one domestic subsidised LPG.

Karma Tshewang Rinzin said that the green gas is aimed at higher income groups for domestic purpose. “For people who request for additional subsidised domestic LPGs, we reject their request and recommend them the green gas.”

He added that those who wish to avail the green gas, no approval from the trade office is required and there is no card system for refills.

For commercial firms like hotels and restaurants, the officiating director said that they should use BIG cylinders. “We’ll send our team to monitor this strictly and also ensure that the BIG refills are available at all times.”

Meanwhile, some of the hoteliers shared that the exorbitant charges deterred them from using the BIG cylinders. “There is not much difference in the quantity as the BIG cylinders last almost equal to any normal LPG,” said a hotelier who did not wish to be named.

He said that the rule was also not implemented uniformly throughout the country. “If the rule is not implemented uniformly, such issues are bound to arise.”

Thromde thuemi, Thinley Namgay, said that some 15 hoteliers have asked him to draft a letter requesting to do away with the BIG gas.

He said he informed the Bhutan Chamber for Commerce and Industry (BCCI) secretary about the issue last time. “He advised us to form an association and submit a formal letter.”

He said that the association would be formed soon and they would draft the letter this week.

Meanwhile, the trade department implemented the use of BIG cylinders among the hoteliers and commercial firms in Trashigang since 2017. Although no one has been penalised yet, officials have caught few hotels not complying with the rule.

The offenders, mostly first-timers, were warned and made aware of the rule.

Younten Tshedup | Trashigang