Development: So it has been, the sate of Samtse town, for what appears to have been like two centuries, said the town residents.
But, this day, they are in the mood to celebrate. Samtse’s town planning, after all these years, has finally been approved.
It was early 1960s when some shape of the town was drawn and made all efforts to make it stand as dreamers saw it stand. Since then, however, nothing pretty much has happened. The cloak with which came the dream remained quietly and comfortably cloaked for many years.
It has been about a year since the plan was approved. The old Samtse town has not changed by much even so. It can sometimes take by much longer than it should to get the “approval of implementation”.
But, much could all be only sound and fury as most things tend to be in the end.
The people wanted the town to expand so desperately. Now that the plan for the development of the town has been approved, there is naught coming forward to start building, to give the first shape to the town they have always dreamt and wanted.
“People lack initiative,” said municipal in-charge Tenzin Dakpa. But then, there are some who show some real interest to start building the town. Of the five proposals that the municipal office received, all have been forwarded to relevant ministries and agencies.
Some developments have occurred in Samtse town, at long last.
There are 37 plot owners in the core of the town. They have to start construction within three years. If they fail to do so within the stipulated time, they will have to reprocess for the approval. The town must now grow. Plot owners have to be competitive. Town development should gain some speed.
People fear that they will be burdened under huge loans. They are worried about how they can repay the loans if they fail to earn from their buildings. But there is a small group of people who are willing to take the risk. Sangay Tashi, an Ex-Drungpa, is waiting for the drawings of his building to get approved.
“I may be able to start the construction by early 2016,” said Sangay Tashi. Sangay Tashi owns a general shop. He said that the country’s financial situation could have discouraged people form building commercial spaces.
There is a restaurant owner, Norbu, who too wants to begin the construction of his building. He has a dream of Samtse becoming a model town in the country. “That’s why I am excited.”
The plan has it that Samtse town will be a double-storey arcade town. Construction will be based on Public-Private Partnership model. Looks all good. The government will bear 60 percent of the expenses, while the remaining 40 percent will be borne by individual plot owners. Plot owners themselves will have to build their own buildings, however.
Often,development comes with challenge. Some things must be lost when efforts are being made to gain something. There will be competitions for this new town because Phuentsholing, a much vibrant and growing town, is just next door. And closer, there is the Indian town of Chamurchi. But the people of Samtse have kept their pulse. There will be a robust town in Samtse.
Norbu said that with the coming of the new town the mentality of the people will have to change. There will be products that are available only in Chamurchi, but the Samtse shops will have those that people cannot find in Chamurchi. “There is the possibility of growth.”
What could be a thing of greater hope is that towns are growing on the both sides of the wall. The Growth of the Samtse town points to something good. Population growth will be there and that means growth of business.
Where numerous tumbledown stalls are in the town today will be made space for people young and old to recreate themselves.
As arguments and dreams go, the shape of the Samtse town looks good.
By Rajesh Rai, Samtse