Infrastructure:  Two years after construction in the core area of Samtse town was approved, progress remains at a snail’s pace. Only three buildings are currently being constructed.

The Samtse municipal office has reminded plot owners to speed up their construction. The town will not have its arcade constructed until all plot owners have constructed their buildings.

Municipal in-charge and engineer Tenzin Dakpa said that their office has received applications for only three constructions which have been submitted to the works and human settlement ministry for approval. “We cannot force them to construct,” the in-charge said, adding that plot owners could have their own problems.

There are 37 plots approved for construction.

Tenzin Dakpa said the municipal office has recently tendered out a contract for the construction of a sewage line. The construction of a treatment plant for the core town area is currently ongoing.

Established in the early 1960s, Samtse town is one of the oldest in the country. Since then, not much development has occurred in the town.

The town today does not have standard hotels. Until a few years ago there was only one hotel that catered to travelers. Today, there are three hotels.

Financial institutions such as the Bhutan National Bank (BNB) and Bank of Bhutan (BoB) have also not received applications from landowners. However, the banks have received informal enquiries.

BNBL branch manager Norbu said that the bank is expecting plot owners to come forward this year. He added that some have enquired about taking loans.

Norbu said that with construction of the Dhamdum Industrial Park progressing, people who construct buildings will have tenants. He said that the park will generate employment and these employees will require accommodation.

Bank officials said demand for accommodation and commercial spaces will exist for the next 10 years. There will also be opportunities presented by new commercial establishments, government and corporate offices, and the Samtse to Haa highway, bank officials said.

Phuntsho Wangdi, one of the plot owners who is currently constructing a four-storey building in the heart of the city said all the spaces have been booked. “Only the space for a hotel is not booked,” he said.

Phuntsho Wangdi also has a second plot and plans to construct a building for residential purposes. There is a huge housing crunch in Samtse, he said, adding that demand for residential apartments would be higher than for commercial spaces.

The rent for a two-bedroom flat ranges from Nu 8,000 to Nu 9,000 in Samtse today. Without many residential buildings, some have rented houses as far as Chengmari. “Housing is a chronic problem here,” Phuntsho Wangdi said.

Town residents said that while the population has been increasing, private constructions were not allowed until recently, which caused the housing problem.

Plot owners said they plan to construct their buildings this year.

Dadiram Adhikari, another plot owner said that he is ready to construct anytime this year. “I have submitted my proposal to the municipal office,” he said, adding that he could start construction by March this year.

Dadiram Adhikari pointed out that Samtse locals have been waiting a long time for approval and that now that it has been provided, people should begin constructing their buildings.

Plot owners have to start their constructions within three years. If they fail to do so within the stipulated time, they will have to reapply for approval.

Rajesh Rai | Samtse