Residents of Jomotsangkha, a growing town, are paying exorbitant prices for fuels

Service: Jomotsangkha dungkhag may be bordering Assam, the oil rich Indian state, but its fuel prices are still the highest in the region.

This is because in the absence of a fuel distributor, residents buy fuel transported in barrels and drums from Samdrupjongkhar. Petrol costs Nu 85 a litre compared with Nu 58.6 in Samdrupjongkhar and diesel Nu 65, Nu 10 more. Fuel is cheaper in the nearest fuel station in the Indian town of Tejpur, but safety is a concern.

Representatives of the three gewogs in the dungkhag raised the need for a fuel distributor in several dzongkhag tshogdus. But with dialogue still ongoing between trade officials and the Bhutan Oil Company (BOC), it is not likely that the dungkhag will receive a fuel station soon.

Residents visiting Samdrupjongkhar fill up their tanks and carry jerry cans to store fuel to last until their next visit to the town 190km away.

A resident, Jigme, said there is no guarantee of quality when they buy fuel that was stored in barrels or jerry cans. “But we have no choice. There are about 200 vehicles in Jomotsangkha.

Lauri gup Pema Dhendup said with a fuel station, apart from the vehicle, it would solve the LPG cylinder and kerosene problem. The residents have to travel to Samdrupjongkhar to refill or purchase a new cylinder.

He said although agents have been appointed to supply kerosene using the coupon system, it has not been effective since they have to also store the kerosene in barrels.

Trade officer, Tshering, said they have been informed that BOC is waiting for officials from the India Oil Corporation (IOC) to come and set up a depot.

“We’ll soon conduct a meeting in Guwahati with the IOC officials and we’re hopeful something will come up to solve the issue,” he said.

Jomotsangkha dungpa, Sherab Dorji, said with many projects, institutions and establishment of a central school, the population and the number of vehicles have increased, which makes a fuel station indispensable.

“From trade and dungkhag, we’re ready to set up anytime,” he said.

Another problem that needs immediate attention is a bank, according to residents.

Although most of the civil servants are clients of the Bhutan Development Bank (BDB), corporate employees, residents, contractors, businessmen and private employees are still affected without a bank.

They either withdraw Indian Rupees from the border town or keep their ATM cards with friends and relatives and ask them to deposit money into their BDB accounts. The rest have to travel to the dzongkhag centre for any monetary transactions.

By Yangchen C Rinzin