…drungkhag to build two more ponds and improve safety at the existing facility by June

Younten Tshedup | Gelephu

With the tshachu (hot spring) season at its peak, hundreds of people have flocked the facility at Gelephu tshachu.

The crowd however, has subsided in the recent days compared to the earlier months. Many have returned after failing to get “adequate” soaking time at the tshachu.

It was just overwhelming a few weeks ago, said the caretaker of the facility, Phuntsho Wangdi. “While it is a common observation during the peak season, but the crowd this year was exceptionally large.”

With only four ponds, Phuntsho Wangdi said that during the peak season that usually starts from November until February, separate timing for men and women is prepared so that everyone gets to use the facility.

To accommodate the large number of visitors arriving annually, the dzongkhag administration constructed four additional ponds a few metres below the existing facility. The hot water was pumped from one of the two existing sources.

However, the new ponds have failed to attract visitors. Since October 2018, the facility has remained under lock and key with occasional visits from dogs.

It was learnt that the difference in water temperature at the new ponds and the belief that the water coming in was wastewater drained out from the old ponds deterred people from using the new facility.

Visitors also raised concerns over the safety at the existing facility.

A regular visitor, Phub Dolay from Paro said that fist-size stones frequently fell on top of the roof above one of the ponds.  On January 30, he said that when people were entering the pond, multiple stones fell on the rooftop.

“While the young ones were quick to escape, the elderlies and disabled were left behind,” he said. “Although no one was injured, it was risky especially for the disabled people who have come to soak in the tshachu.”

The roof at the facility was recently repaired after the roofing materials were found corroded.

Umling drungpa, Karma Wangdi, said that while the concerns shared by the public were genuine, there was no budget allocated in the plan. However, with support from the dzongkhag economic officer, he said that the drungkhag administration has managed to gather a fund of about Nu 3.5 million (M).

The drungpa said that by June this year, two new ponds would be constructed within the existing facility to accommodate more people. “Given the limited space, we are doing everything we could to make it more convenient for the public,” he said, adding that concrete slaps would also be laid over the facility to improve the safety at the facility.

With increasing number of visitors annually, there is mounting pressure on the drungkhag and dzongkhag administrations.  Officials shared that the facility’s limited space is a major hindrance to expand the services.

Also, it was learnt that brining in major changes and modifications could put the facility in danger as it could possibly alter the natural-state of the facility.

Annually, the Gelephu tshachu sees more than 40,000 visitors from across the country.