Satellite town status saves Narphung from extinction

At risk of relocation earlier due to road widening work, the settlement is now here to stay

Township: Much to the relief of shop owners in Narphung, located on the Samdrupjongkhar-Trashigang highway, the town will not be relocated as it has now been identified as a satellite town.

The demarcation and feasibility study of the township was completed a week ago.  As it was found feasible, Samdrupjongkhar dzongkhag officials said that they would now focus on the development and expansion of the area for a proper township.

Dzongkhag officials said the decision was reached following His Majesty’s command to develop the town into a satellite town during the royal visit to Narphung last year.

In 2009, when project DANTAK started road-widening works on the highway, the settlement in Narphung, where most structures failed to maintain a distance of 50ft from the highway, were to be demolished.  It was decided informally that the town would have to be cleared for the road widening works.  Since then shop owners in Narphung had lived in constant fear.

The shop owners had agreed to vacate if the dzongkhag provided them a favourable location and had raised the issue with the then zimpoen’s office in Mongar.

Spread over two acres of land, there are about 15 shop owners residing in Narphung.  Located on a ridge, the temporary structures in Narphung stand along the highway serves as a popular stopover.  The shops sell varieties of local products like bamboo products, cereals, fresh vegetables and fruits, and dairy products, among others.  Half of the town falls in Gomdar gewog, while the other half is in Orong gewog.

Samdrupjongkhar dzongdag, Goling Tshering, said, Narphung would now be developed into a satellite town like Wamrong. The survey has been submitted to the works and human settlement ministry.  The dzongkhag has planned a recreation centre, along with permanent structures, while shop owners will get the land ownership as most of the town area falls on government land.

“We’re waiting for their response on the structural plan,” the dzongdag said.

Dzongkhag engineer Pelden Norgay said that two-storied houses could come up instead of the temporary sheds. “We have to complete formalities like land commission’s approval, public consultation and plotting before we put up to the cabinet,” he said. “We expect all formalities to be complete by next year.”

Elderly residents of Narphung said that the town, about 67km from Samdrupjongkhar, existed since the 1940s with six households, and later served as a stopover after the highway was constructed in 1964.

Narphung town’s tshogpa Passang Tshering said the residents were happy that they would not be relocated. “We’re very grateful to His Majesty the King,” he said. “As a stopover we do brisk business in Narphung.”

The shopkeepers earn about Nu 10,000 on an average in a day.  For most shop owners, the shops are their only means of income to support their families.

By Yangchen C Rinzin, Samdrupjongkhar 

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