Urban: The entrance to the capital city is going to be smoother without vehicles coming from four directions and converging at the busy and confusing narrow cross roads near the Bhutan Oil Distributor fuel station.

The Thimphu thromde has finalised plans to relocate the existing fuel station, located opposite the police headquarters, belonging to the Tashi Group of Companies and has massive development plans for the area as per the Thimphu Structural Plan 2002-2027.

The area where the fuel station, commonly referred to as BOD, is located will be developed into the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck Memorial Gateway along the Norzin Lam entrance to the core area of Thimphu city.

Thimphu Thrompon Kinley Dorji said that the thromde was directed by the National   Consultative Committee for Human Settlements (NCCHS), to implement a 25-year master plan for the capital city, which was approved by the Cabinet in 2003.

“Based on the traffic congestion and safety consideration, the thromde will pursue with Tashi Group to move the existing fuel station at Lungtenzampa to the identified areas,” Thrompon Kinley Dorji said. “Negotiation will be initiated very soon.”

He said that the thromde will construct a circular road on the area the BOD fuel station occupies and also provide a facelift to the Lungtenzampa flyover bridge. To relocate the existing fuel station, according to Thrompon Kinley Dorji, the thromde has identified two locations in Dechencholing and Ramtokto.

He said that the fuel station in Dechencholing will cater to the people residing in the northern part of Thimphu city while other one in Ramtokto can cater to South Thimphu as well as vehicles travelling on the Thimphu-Phuentsholing highway.

The Land Act 2007 empowers the government to acquire registered land for public interests, and provide substitute land or cash compensation, or both, as compensation.

E-2 precinct

Ownership of the present fuel station and the old taxi-parking area, was granted to  Tashi Commercial Corporation (TCC) by the judiciary after a six year legal battle between Thimphu thromde and the Tashi Group.

However, the area falls under the E-2 (Environmental precinct) category of the Thimphu Structural Plan. The precinct is an area in the town designated for specific or restricted use, meaning that the landowner cannot develop anything on it other than to maintain it as a “green space”.

According to thromde officials, both parties were not aware that the existing area, adjacent to the Lungtenzampa fuel station, was categorized as E-2 until the passing of the judgment by the Supreme Court on the ownership of the old taxi-parking area in favour of TCC.

Following the Supreme Court verdict, the thromde then decided to acquire the land for public use. “We wrote to the National Land Commission (NLC) for acquiring the land from TCC,” the thrompon said. “However, the NLC had wrote back to us stating that the thromde is not allowed to acquire the land for some reasons,” he added.

TCC had submitted a proposal to the thromde for the construction of a building on the area.

According to a source, the thromde then declared the old taxi-parking area as a “green zone” disallowing TCC from carrying out any construction activity.

TCC then requested the thromde to change the area’s E-2 status in the Thimphu Structural Plan. “Since the thromde has no authority to change, we forwarded TCC’s proposal to the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement, which then submitted to the NCCHS for consideration,” Thrompon Kinley Dorji said. “NCCHS, during its committee meeting held in August this year, turned down the proposal and resolved to retain it as per the Thimphu Structural Plan.”

Most structural and urban  development  plans are  usually  initiated  and prepared  by  the  Ministry  of  Works and  Human   Settlement and then   approved  by   the   NCCHS, which is a national level committee that deals with human settlements, including urban development.

The thrompon said that the Thimphu Structural Plan is a 25-year plan and they can implement it as and when the thromde determines it is the right time.

Asked why the thromde delayed implementing the E-2 precinct, the thrompon said that the requirement to have it implemented was not pressing before. “Now with the increasing number of vehicles, traffic jams and long queues of vehicles at the fuel station, it is inconvenient to the residents, the thromde feels it is time to implement the structural plan as endorsed by the NCCHS,” he said.

Both motorists and pedestrians welcome the move initiated by the thromde. “In the next few years we can drive safely through the Thimphu City gate,” a motorist said.

The area includes several lanes converging and is a high-traffic zone for both vehicles and pedestrians which results in traffic congestion during peak hours. Many have also said that a fuel station at the entry point of the capital city is an eyesore.

“It is the most inconvenient, inappropriately located infrastructure at the mouth of the capital city,” a frustrated father, who used to drop and pick up his children studying in Lungtenzampa school regularly, said.

Kuensel could not contact Tashi Group of Companies for comment as its top officials were out of the country.

Rinzin Wangchuk