New location to be determined by Thimphu-Paro urban development framework 

Rinzin Wangchuk 

The relocation of the automobile workshops from Olarongchhu (Olakha) to the outskirts of Thimphu Thromde will depend on the final report of the Thimphu-Paro urban development framework.

A committee was formed to look into the possibility of relocating the workshops which has become crowded and an eyesore besides proprietors and building owners always clashing over rental issues.  “I am expecting the report within a week or so from the committee,” works and human settlement minister Dorji Tshering said. “Then only we can decide the way forward.”

In August this year, the Cabinet directed the ministry to find a solution that can address the challenges the automobile operators in Olarongchhu are facing today.

This is the second time the Cabinet tasked the ministry to explore options to decongest or relocate the existing automobile workshops that were moved from Changzamtog to Olarongchhu in 2008.

The ministry formed a committee to study and draft a framework for urban development in Thimphu and Paro after the owners, through the Automobile Sectors’ Association of Bhutan (ASAB), appealed to the government  in 2019.

They appealed to the government accusing the building owners of ad hoc increase in rent and forceful eviction. At that time, Lyonpo Dorji Tshering told Kuensel that the ministry was exploring options to relocate the workshops to Pamtsho, Kabisa or Namseling.

During the meeting with owners of automobile workshops from all 20 dzongkhags and four thromdes in Thimphu on December 25, 2019, Prime Minister Dr Lotey Tshering also assured that the government would look into the issue they were facing at Olarongchhu.

“It is now almost three years without any result,” a workshop operator said.

The issue resurfaced again in July this year after the Supreme Court ordered seven automobile workshop operators at Olakha to vacate the private properties within six months. Seven aggrieved parties then appealed to the government for intervention claiming that more than 100 people currently employed by them will become jobless.

Lyonpo Dorji Tshering said that going by the Tenancy Act, both land owners and workshop operators had the right to claim their justifications. “The land owners have the ownership over the building and operators have also right to not to move out because they were made to move out from Changzamtog to the present location by the government,” he said.

“There is a genuine reason for both the parties and government will have to find a solution,” Lyonpo Dorji Tshering said. “However, as I said earlier, we have to go by the recommendations of the committee responsible for urban development framework.”

One of the aggrieved operators said that they appealed to the government to allot them vacant government land on lease within Thimphu Thromde or beyond Namseling until the government decides a new location for all the existing workshops in Olakha.

“Our grace period to vacate the properties will expire on January 20, 2023,” another operator said. “We are also worried about the employees, their family besides our business if we can’t find a temporary place to operate workshops,” he said.

Fearing that the recent Supreme Court’s decision and it’s repercussions would also impact other workshop owners, the executive members of ASAB on September also approached the Opposition Leader to intervene and raise  their concern to the ruling government or make it as an agenda for forthcoming winter session on the issue of Olarongchhu workshops.

The government in 2008 relocated all automobile workshops from Changzamtog to the present location in Olarongchhu. At that time, there were around 32 operators. Today, there are more than 100 operators in the cramped Olarongchhu area.