Nima | Gelephu

Iron Female Ox Year-Sarpang: While Sarpang survived as the lone dzongkhag in the southern borders to remain unhurt from the Covid-19 outbreaks in 2021, the pandemic gave a heavy jolt to the dzongkhag from Gelephu.

Other dzongkhags along the borders imposed repeated lockdown restrictions but the businesses and people in Sarpang and Gelephu lived relatively normal lives.

As a border town, Gelephu though was constantly reminded of its vulnerabilities. The dzongkhag task force focused on strengthening safety protocols and containment measures.

The pandemic put a stop to some of the country’s biggest projects underway in Sarpang Jigmeling industrial park, Gelephu domestic airport, Sarpang-Gelephu corridor, and construction of Royal Boulevard in Gelephu.

Jigmeling Industrial Park is being planned as the country’s largest industrial estate. There were ten investors who were ready to start site development works but only one could start working at the site.

The only investor working at the park faced frequent hiccups; there were not enough labourers and procuring required materials became a huge challenge during the lockdown.

The lines of street poles and wide blacktopped roads were frequently dug up for trench line and cable network. Capital and officials clearances continue to be hurdles facing interested investors.

The land price in the dzongkhag, particularly in Gelephu, skyrocketed in 2021. A decimal of land that was sold for Nu 60,000 five years back was sold at Nu  200,000.

The domestic airport in Gelephu remained idle since the pandemic hit the country. However, the works to upgrade the airport to an international airport took a significant turn last year.

More than 40 landowners took part in the land replacement lucky draw held in Sarpang in October. The substitute land for over 120 landowners falling within the airport extension was planned in Samtenling Gewog.

The domestic airport currently spreads over 500 acres of land in Samtenling. Once the extension is completed, the airport will occupy more than 700 acres of land in Samtenling.

Feasibility plans, soil testing and other required technical assessment picked up in 2021. The airport is expected to save airlines’ business from incurring heavy losses when flights get diverted from Paro International Airport. .

Floods in summer damaged water treatment plants and pipelines in Gelephu. The water problem became worse in winter with the water sources drying up. The thromde is yet to find a permanent solution to the annual water woes.

Boulders export from Gelephu gained slow momentum in 2021. The exporters and the agencies concerned worked in collaboration with the organisation in Meghalaya to clear the hurdles along the Indian highways.

The number of active exporters dropped last year. While the trade picked towards the end of the year, lockdown restrictions disrupted the export.

Sarpang became infamous for tshethar activities. The rescued animals were left without care, many starving to death.

Local leaders in Sarpang raised concerns over the lack of after-care for animals rescued by tshethar tshogpa during the dzongkhag tshogdu in August. The tshogpa’s coordinator from the dzongkhag was banned from tshethar activities.

When it comes to winter chilli and vegetable production, Sarpang is seen as the hope for the country. The government invested heavily in winter vegetable production in the dzongkhag in 2021.

However, the increased incidents of pest and diseases hampered the progress.

Sarpang has one the highest numbers of poultry farmers in the country. However, farmers lost over 3,000 birds to contaminated feed in December.

The contaminated feeds were recalled and compensation was rolled out to the affected farmers. The samples were sent abroad to confirm the feed contamination but the year ended without any resolute findings.

The dzongkhag saw the completion of two desuung water projects in Taraythang and Jigmecholing in the Ox year.