Lyonchoen defends the Rising East Programme during Trashigang’s MTR 

MTR: Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay took advantage of the mid term review (MTR) of Trashigang dzongkhag to defend the government’s Rising East Programme yesterday.

The programme came under heavy criticism from political parties labelling it as the government’s strategy to gain political mileage.

In his concluding remarks, Lyonchoen said that while it was important to develop all the dzongkhags, six eastern dzongkhags needed to be prioritized.

“Dzongkhags like Bumthang, Trongsa and others have the potential to develop on their own, but the six eastern dzongkhags have to work together if development is to reach here,” he said. “The 14 other dzongkhags have an added advantage of being nearer to the capital and commercial centers.”

This fact is proved from the huge number of gungtongs (empty houses) in the east, he said. For instance, Trashigang has 1,055 gungtongs, Trashiyangtse has 740 and Mongar has 412. On the other hand, Bumthang has three gungtongs, Punakha has 35 and Sarpang has 28.

“People are leaving villages to find better life in other dzongkhags. Yet, we see them living as servants. It is a pity,” he said. “Houses that are not empty are in dilapidated conditions. Therefore, we must put extra effort of bringing  economic development to the east.”

Lyonchoen highlighted some of activities that would help develop eastern Bhutan. To promote tourism in the east, the economic affairs ministry is already framing policies. Kanglung would become the educational hub while Nganglam would be the economic hub in the east, Lyonchoen said.

The government, Lyonchoen said, is also focused on developing agricultural activities in the east.

To improve market conditions for farmers in the east, a new office, Commercial Agriculture and Resilient Livelihoods Enhancement programme, a project worth Nu 950 million, would be established at Wengkhar in Mongar this year.

“All of this is to bring economic development in rural pockets, which would eventually develop the eastern region and provide opportunities to you all,” Lyonchoen said.

He said the government has started widening the northern east-west highway construction worth about Nu 8 billion, which will be competed by the end of 2017.

Meanwhile, Trashigang dzongdag Lungten Dorji reporting to Lyonchoen on the 11th Plan progress said the dzongkhag has achieved 27 of the 46 Key Performance Indicators (KPI) of the dzongkhag’s key result areas. Four are in risk zone.

To enhance rural household income and food sufficiency, the dzongkhag produced about 11,223.MT of potatoes, 1,200MT of citrus, 4,206MT maize, 15,200MT paddy, and 4,583 liters of milk, all meeting the targets.

For an improved urban life, 90 households were connected with proper footpath and road, three new landfill sites were built while the frequency of waste collection increased from three to six times a week.

To enhance quality, accessibility and literacy in the education sector, two schools were upgraded and the teacher pupil ratio stood at 1:19 last year. 15 power tillers were distributed to the 15 gewogs.

Major achievements of capital investment were the construction of 18 farm roads and 29 that were maintained. Construction of 18 irrigation channels, six bridges and development of eight urban facilities were few other activities carried out.

Achievement of fish production, infant mortality, under-five mortality and maternal mortality were in the risk zone.

Dzongdag Lungten Dorji said the delay in granting timber approval for construction of religious structures and re-construction of private houses affected by disaster has become a problem for the dzongkhag.

“While timber approval for disaster affected families should be simplified and expedited based upon the report of the gewogs and dzongkhag, timber approval below 3,000 cft may be delegated to territorial forest/park office,” he recommended.

Lyonchoen asked the dzongkhag administration to compile the number of households affected by disasters so he can put up the matter with His Majesty The King for kidu possibilities. The case of timber delay for religious structures would also be looked into.

Lyonchoen also informed that the government would be looking into the possibility of constructing a fuel depot at Khaling.

Of the Nu 1761.199 million budget outlay for the 11th Plan, the dzongkhag utilized Nu 878.238 million in the past two financial years.

Tshering Wangdi, Trashigang