The Election Commission of Bhutan has released the delimitation order of the 15 dzongkhag thromdes. As expected, there were changes and also resistance to the change.
Paro dzongkhag has lost the gewog of Wangchang. People of the gewog have appealed to the Speaker of the National Assembly in hopes that the boundary that encompasses lush paddy fields will be considered.
Losing gewog status comes with implications. They will not have a gup, mangmi and tshogpa to represent them at the local government. But it is not so much about representation as they will have representatives in the thromde tshogde. It is more about losing incentives and subsidies. People will not receive timber subsidies and will have to pay higher urban taxes.
The concerns are genuine. But there are benefits too for being part of a thromde. Paro is a prosperous dzongkhag and given its location, Wangchang gewog has more potential for growth as part of the thromde.
Paro town is already expanding and will continue to do so given its proximity to the capital. The country’s only international airport is also located there. It is surprising that Paro was not already a thromde.
Becoming a part of the urban plan would mean opening more land for construction. That includes paddy fields. It may pain farmers to see their paddy fields make way for concrete buildings but that is already happening. More and more concrete buildings are popping up on what was once paddy fields from Shaba to Drugyal dzong. Some are envious, as they know there is more income from rentals than paddy fields. Only a few can turn wetland into dry land and start constructions.
Amenities like roads, drainage and a proper sewage system are expected to follow once a place is declared a town. In other words there will be proper town planning to prevent haphazard growth. This will increase the value of land that will come as a relief as there are not many left to till the land. Farmers in south Thimphu expressed the same reservations when the Thimphu city expanded. Today not many are complaining.
What the government could do to stay on the right path is to decentralise. Paro could help decongest Thimphu, which is getting overcrowded by the day. After all the talk of balanced regional development, not much has been moved out of the capital city.
Meanwhile, Paro has become closer with a double lane highway. There are people who live in Paro and work in Thimphu. If more government, non profit and autonomous agencies are shifted to Paro, it will help the town grow and also decongest Thimphu.