Tshering Namgyal | Mongar

There was a prominent and promising town at Sherichhu. Now the place looks deserted except for a lone shopkeeper.

Sonam Dorji once did good business from his one-storied traditional house shop on the bank of Sherichhu river on the Trashigang-Mongar highway. 

Sherichhu thrived as a town because it was then the only spot for lemongrass oil and resin collection centre. Hundreds of villagers involved in the business used to flock in summer and resin collection season.

Besides, travellers along the highway stopped to eat and buy goods. It was also a permanent shopping destination of people of Dramitse, Thangrong and Chaskhar in Mongar and Udzorong gewog in Trashigang. So the grocery items and others were selling like hotcakes.

The town had more than 13 shops and business was booming until the decline of the lemongrass oil venture and resin business. Many farmers also lost interest to extract resin from pine trees and lemongrass. Business dwindled gradually with the emergence of new businesses or shops in the gewogs after more roads connected the villages in the gewog.

Most of them had gradually moved elsewhere more than a decade ago.

Sonam Dorji recalls seeing off the last few of his neighbour shopkeepers as recent as some two years ago.

Today, the only customer according to Sonam, are staff of forest range office, hydrology and BioBhutan engaged in selling some products. Few villagers from Baging village in Drametse, Chaskhar and travellers mostly buy basic edible items. “But I am content to operate in the place it makes enough income and there are no competitors.”

Although the business is not as thriving as in earlier years, businessmen like Sonam are still hopeful for a better township with the plan for bypass highway from Sherichhu to Kuri-Gongri confluence and hydropower project in the locality. “Some who closed and left earlier are planning to return because of the new prospects.”

For Sonam, after spending more than four decades in this place and all his seven children were born and brought up in Sherichhu. “I’ve no plan to go anywhere out of here.”

Tenzin, who has temporarily closed his shop in Sherichhu and moved to Yadi town, said, “We are eagerly waiting for plots to be allotted to come up with permanent structures and do regular business.

Shopkeepers said they have been anticipating a good township given the good future prospects, and a series of surveys were conducted by the dzongkhag and Dramitse gewog for a township in the area.

“If government allots us plot here, we can plan a proper structure and start a restaurant with quality services or run a wholesale shop,” Sonam said.

Meanwhile, dzongkhag officials said that there are plans for satellite town development in the 12th five-year plan.