Thromde: The Duksum business community and landowners in Khitsang in Trashi Yangtse are skeptical if the new town at Khitsang will be ready by July 2018.

They also doubt residential homes will be ready for the Kholongchhu hydropower project by November. The project wants the houses by that time.

Duksum town, located at the foot of a massive cliff on the confluence of Kholongchhu and Drangmechhu, was relocated to Khitsang for safety reasons. The present area is prone to falling rocks during earthquakes and flooding.

The new town is a vast uncultivated arable dry land of 55.75 acres perched above a massive cliff overlooking Duksum, which is located midway on the 54km Trashigang-Trashi Yangste highway.

The new site has been turned into 191 construction plots, which are classified under residential and commercial areas.

The area has been further categorised into urban village I and II for residential homes and hotels. The core area will be reserved for commercial purposes.

Of the 191 plots, 40 are classified as the urban core, and 131 are under the urban village I. The remaining 20 plots are under urban village II.

However, 19 years after the Duksum town relocation plan was initiated, no new constructions have taken place in Khitsang. Save for some minor excavation works, not much has happened since the land was acquired in 2012 and town development works began.

The lack of construction activities is attributed to plot owners, who are mostly villagers, unable to afford new constructions. “With most of the plot owners being villagers, people are still unable to start the construction since they do not have money to start up,” a shopkeeper in Duksum, Karma Lhamo said.

She added that while a full loan of Nu 3.5 million (M) has been provided for a four-unit house, Nu 2.3M for a three unit structure, and Nu 1.3M for a two unit one, at nine percent interest for 20 years, people are not sure if the money would be enough to construct houses. “Since most of the plot owners of residential area are villagers, they cannot construct houses if no additional loan is provided,” she said.

They will need either full or at least around 85 percent of the cost, she said. Villagers who have to construct two unit structures are particularly worried that they will not have enough money. “As per the estimate based on the structural design, at least Nu 1.8-1.9M will be required to construct the two unit houses,” Karma Lhamo said.

For the residential area, only 40 plot owners have shown interest to construct houses under the existing housing loan scheme. “But the number of people interested to construct could decrease if the loan for two-unit structures isn’t increased from Nu 1.3M,” Karma Lhamo said.

Similarly, even the business community is now asking for full loans. The business community is entitled to loan only after completion of the building’s foundation at an interest rate of 11 percent.

But even the shopkeepers are now claiming that the structures cannot construct houses without full loan as most are small shops operating in remote areas. “Without getting full loan from the start of the construction most of the shops here cannot start the constructions,” another Duksum shopkeeper, Sangay Choeda said. Trashi Yangtse Dzongdag Thuji Tshering said that the loan amounts were estimated based on 200 units, which Kholongchhu hydropower project assured they will rent during their eight year construction period and 100 units after eight years.

While banks do not usually provide 100 percent loans, the dzongkhag is attempting to negotiate with the banks. “I just had a talk with the banks and they will talk with their head office,” Thuji Tshering said, adding that the dzongkhag is trying to get as much loan as possible by extending the duration to 25 years from 20.

Tempa Wangdi