Holding a brown jerry can and a large funnel, a teenager walks through the centre of Doksum town in Trashiyangtse.

She is carrying petrol.

Although illegal, this is a common practice in town. General shops sell petroleum products.

Most shopkeepers Kuensel spoke to claim that they were not involved in such practices and that it was other shops that sold the petroleum products.

One of the shopkeepers, Karma Lhamo, said that a few years ago she used to keep petrol in her shop for sale. “Trade officials said it was illegal and we stopped immediately.”

She said there were others who used to do the same business. “I cannot say for sure if they still continue to sell.”

Another shopkeeper, who requested anonymity, said that he and some other shopkeepers hoard petrol and diesel in barrels to sell to travellers.

“We do not have a fuel depot in Doksum, which is why we have to do this business,” he said. “Even if I stop this, someone else would do it because everyone needs fuel when they reach Doksum.”

The nearest fuel depot is located some 27km in Kheri, Trashigang. The lone fuel depot for Trashiyangtse is near Chorten Kora town, about 30km away.

It was learnt that most shopkeepers selling the fuel charge at least Nu 20 extra on the fuel.

Last year around this time, a fuel depot was expected to be functional in the town. The dzongkhag had identified a 50 decimal land about 150ms towards the new Doksum town.

However, almost a year after, the location remains undeveloped except for the placement of a fuel tank.

“It been almost seven months since the tank was placed there. Nothing has happened after that,” said another shopkeeper, Phuntsho Dorji. “We do not know the reason for the delay but people are suffering.”

He said that the fuel depot in Doksum would benefit people from six other gewogs in the dzongkhag. “The current fuel depot in Yangtse is benefitting only two gewogs. Doksum is centrally located for the six gewogs.”

The regional manager for Bhutan Oil Corporation (BOC) and Bhutan Oil Distributors (BOD) in Samdrupjongkhar, Dendup Tshering, said a delay in acquiring the land has resulted in the delay of the construction.

“From our side, everything is ready. Once we get the lease certificate, we can start the works immediately,” he said.

It was learnt that about nine years ago, there was a proposal to construct a fuel depot in Doksum. However, due to some issues over land, the construction could not begin.

The dzongkhag land record officer was not available for comments.

Meanwhile, residents said that going to Trashigang or Yangtse for refueling was more expensive and time-consuming. “It is better we get our vehicles refueled here even if the cost is very high,” said a resident.

Younten Tshedup | Doksum