Economic development in the newly identified Sarpang town is expected to gain but only if it can be connected with new roads with the gewogs and the neighbouring dzongkhags.

The government has identified 22.9 acres of land above the Sarpang’s police checkpoint for development of the new town at Ranibagan in Gakiling gewog, where a few buildings are being constructed today.

Economic viability of the new town remains a concern since most of people today depend on Gelephu town for trade and hospitality.

Shompangkha constituency’s candidates have pledged to connect the inter-gewog roads in Sarpang to the proposed southern east-west high, which will pass through the dzongkhag. This, the candidates hope, will enhance the new town’s economic viability through acceleration of economic development in Sarpang.

The government, they say, needs to focus more on Sarpang since it lags behind Gelephu in terms of economic development. The candidates say that Sarpang needs both the east-west highway and inter-gewog and inter-dzongkhag road networks to enhance economic viability of the proposed town.

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa’s (DNT) candidate, Tek Bdr Rai, said that the government needed to focus more on Sarpang since Gelephu already had a regional hospital, a domestic airport, and hotels among other amenities. He said that most of the government facilities and infrastructures were located in Gelephu, while Sarpang did not even have a town after the old town was washed away by floods in 2016.

“Gelephu is already a large commercial hub while Sarpang doesn’t have much in terms of commercial development,” he said, adding that the southern highway is expected to spur development in the constituency.

One of the beneficiaries, he said, would be the new town. “People can set up hotels and other business infrastructures if we have the highway passing through Sarpang,” the DNT candidate said.

The constituency’s candidate representing Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT), Deo Kumar Rimal, said that town would be linked to various gewogs in the dzongkhag, which he added, would help make it a commercial centre. He said that his party had plans to enhance both inter-gewog and inter-dzongkhag road connectivity for economic prosperity and security of the people.

Deo Kumar Rimal also said that the southern highway would provide employment opportunities for people. “Our people can set up business enterprises along the highway and engage themselves in gainful employment,” he said.

The DPT candidate said that his pledge to pursue the south-east national highway was derived from the party’s national manifesto.

DNT wants to connect all adjoining settlements along the southern belt making movement convenient for people.

DPT in its manifesto describes roads as the mother of all development activities.

In absence of a southern east-west highway, Bhutanese currently travellers use Indian routes from Phuentsholing to Samdrupjongkhar. Inconvenience and safety risks have been a concern for the travellers.

The construction of the Asian Development Bank-funded southern highway was suspended citing security reasons. The highway will connect all major settlements in the southern foothills.

MB Subba | Sarpang