Out of the frying pan into the fire?

Vendors abandon Bjichulum vegetable market

Phurpa Lhamo | Punakha

Considering the safety of the vendors along the Thimphu-Punakha road, the Toeb gewog administration instructed all vendors to relocate at Bjichulum, a wide space near the Penzogyem Drubchu in Thinleygang.

It was a wise decision. Vendors rushing with vegetables and fruits in their hands, as vehicles approach, have always been a safety concern. However, the new location at Bjichulum is not safe either.

With impending risk of flood and the dust, the 24 vendors have moved to various locations along the highway. Today the vegetable stalls at Bjichulum are empty.

A vegetable vendor Lhaden said that Bjichulum was not safe during summer. “ There is risk of flooding,” she said. Earlier this year, rainwater damaged stores of around three vendors at Bjichulum. “The ground level is low making it prone to flooding  during monsoon. The water also damages the makeshift pillars,” Nakum, another vendor said.

Business was also affected, as the short road to the vegetable shops becomes muddy in summer and dusty in winter.  “When the road is bad, people don’t stop to buy anything. During winter, the road is too dusty,” said Lhaden.

Lhaden said vendors hardly earn Nu 3,000 on weekends while at Bjichulum. “At other locations we can earn around Nu 14,000 on weekends. If the stalls are near the road, people can stop and choose not to get out of the vehicles. Selling things are easier this way.”

Nakum said that she had spent about Nu 20,000 building the makeshift vegetable shed at Bjichulum. She has today moved a few meters away from the location. “We chose a location which had enough space for vehicles to park.”

The Toepisa gewog administration is aware of the concern and they are awaiting the construction of a structure at Bjichulum to replace the stalls built by the vendors.

Toep Gup Namgay Tenzin said that the budget to build better structures at Bjichulum had been secured and designs ready. Construction is expected to start soon.

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