Fifth deadline extension request since the township development began in 2013

The residents of Doksum town in Trashiyangtse and the dzongkhag administration will once again meet to set another deadline to relocate the town to the new township at Khetshang.

This is because the Cabinet has directed the human settlement minister to consult the dzongkhag administration to decide on the relocation.

This is the fifth time the deadline will be extended. The residents were supposed to move to the new township by the end of June this year.

Kuensel learnt that the Cabinet discussed the matter during 93rd session of the Cabinet meeting after residents of Doksum wrote to Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering.

Signed by 41 shopkeepers, the letter requested for deadline extension for at least two years.

However, the dzongkhag administration was not aware of the request people made to the Prime Minister. The dzongkhag administration, following the Cabinet’s directive, will meet the residents for a consultation today.

The Cabinet’s letter to the ministry mentioned that after arriving on the mutually agreed date with the shopkeepers, all commercial activities, including retailers and eateries would be “stopped” in the old town.

Zhabtog Lyonpo (human settlement minister) Dorji Tshering said that after Lyonchhen received the request that residents cannot move to the new town by June because of various reasons, the concerns were found to be genuine given the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We should understand that construction was difficult when materials were not easily available and business was affected,” Zhabtog Lyonpo said. “People were also waiting for Kholongchu hydropower to formally start and now that it will, people are confident that they will benefit if they relocate to a new town.”

Lyonpo said that the relocation should not be rushed and the town.

“We can’t force them to leave when constructions are not ready. June is too short a deadline and impossible to ask residents to relocate,” Lyonpo said.

Doksum town tshogpa, Karma Lhamo, said that the extension had to be requested because some residents could not process loans with their income affected by the pandemic. Others, she added, are struggling to process materials for construction amid rapid cost escalation.

Karma Lhamo said that lockdown affected the construction work and that until the construction of houses is complete, people cannot relocate. “Residents do not have money to build houses. It’s not that residents are reluctant to relocate to the new town. We’ll when all the construction activities are completed.”

Construction of only about nine houses have been completed at Khetsang, six are under construction, and a majority of the residents have just started to lay the foundation.

There are about 40 shopkeepers and around 20 residents at Doksum.

Residents had last asked for a deadline extension until December 31, 2020 after requests. The human settlement ministry then had informed people that the ministry would not entertain further requests for deadline extension for relocation of the new township.

The dzongkhag administration had already extended the deadline thrice since the township development began in 2013.

In the past, construction was delayed due to the non-availability of timber and residents’ inability to avail of loans from the banks. Initially, when the township development started, it was water issues at the new location and other basic necessities that delayed the relocation of the town.

Doksum town was started as a trading centre for six gewogs of Trashiyangtse in late 1976.

By Yangchen C Rinzin

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk