Budget constraint and Thimphu Structural Plan review slow progress

Yangyel Lhaden 

Nearly a year after illegal structures in the Olakha workshop area were demolished, workshop owners are still waiting for the Thimphu Thromde to revamp the area with proper sewage, drainage, water, and parking facilities.

Lack of proper drainage sewer and waste water overflowing on the road resulted in potholes, while  the roads are filled with potholes, workshop equipment are occupying the vacant space left by the  demolished illegal structures. Scrap vehicles also continue to clutter the area.

Last June, Thimphu Thromde took action and removed about 13 illegal structures like roads, drains, and some portions of a few structures built on government land.

A workshop owner, Younten Phuntsho, said that thromde officials had informed them about how the presence of illegal structures on state land was impeding infrastructure development, including proper drainage, sewage systems, and parking areas. “Thromde officials assured us that infrastructure development would take place in the area promptly after the removal of the illegal structures,” Younten Phuntsho said. “We are still waiting.”

“My painting booth had encroached on state land, and I was asked to relocate it to my own property. I had hoped for proper drainage, but my workshop has flooded twice, so now I try to minimise water usage.”

Executive member of Olakha Workshop Association, Karma Tenzin, said that the current sewer line was designed when there were only about 36 workshops in the area in 2006. “ Today, there are 74 workshop buildings and more than 104 licensed operators along with numerous residents adding pressure on the already strained sewer line.” The association has been engaging with the thromde office for years, advocating for improved infrastructure in the workshop area.

A mechanic, Ugyen Wangdi, said that although the workshop is less congested than before, the presence of  off-road vehicles parked in the workshop area contributes to traffic congestion. Makeshift structure of workshop where Ugyen Wangdi works was demolished last year and now equipment from his workshop occupies the space. “The thromde is not developing the area which is why the equipment is occupying the space,” Ugyen Wangdi said.

The thromde’s Babesa Thuemi, Dorji Gyeltshen said that the illegal structures were removed because they encroached on state land. However, people had expected infrastructure improvements in infrastructure, which the thromde office had agreed to build.

“Although the map for infrastructure development is ready, the work couldn’t be carried out due to budget constraints,” Dorji Gyeltshen said. “I was hoping for including redevelopment of the workshop area in the next budget, but we received a notice from the Ministry of Infrastructure and  Transport to hold any developmental activity at the workshop area during the Thimphu Structure Plan review.”