Younten Tshedup | Zhemgang
Zhemgang town is drying. At the rate businesses are closing down, it would soon be a ghost town.
More than seven shop owners and hoteliers in the town have closed their businesses in the last three years. There are no prospects.
Those business persons who have stayed back are the ones operating from their own houses and need not worry about house rents.
“There are hardly any visitors and business is dead,” a salon owner inside Trong heritage village, Sonam Lhamo, said. “The only consolation is that I don’t have to pay rent for the saloon.”
A shopkeeper, Bibi, said that whether it is winter or summer, business in Zhemgang town is the same.
“There are roadblocks on either side of the highway connecting the dzongkhag in summer, and in winter, students, teachers and most of the dzongkhag staff are gone.”
Another hotelier, Jangchub Dorji, said that even with only two hotels with lodging facilities in the town, the rooms remain empty for weeks. “There are hardly any customers. I’ve taken loan to construct the building and I am worried I might default if this trend continues.”
Thromde representative, Tashi Choden, said that with the opening of the Wangdigang-Tingtibi bypass about six years ago, business in Zhemgang town has come to a complete halt.
“Initially when the public transport services and other vehicles had to ply through the town, business was doing well,” she said. “Today except for the residents, there are hardly any vehicles coming to the town.”
There are about 49 shops, mostly groceries, today.
Tashi Choden said that one or two shops closed down every year. “Many of these people have started business in Gelephu and are doing well there.”
In absence of any major project, institution or vibrant activity, the thromde representative said that there are no business prospects in the town. “I’ve raised this issue in every dzongkhag tshogdu but nothing has happened so far.”
She said residents had high hopes when the government pledged of Chamkharchhu hydro-project and announced the tourism flagship programme with targeted development activities in the dzongkhag. “But these projects were scraped off and people’s hopes were crushed.”
Governments, Tashi Choden said was least bothered about development in Zhemgang and its people. “People are suffering and the government is aware. They must act now.”
Residents also questioned the progress of establishing a college in the dzongkhag. “This college is our only hope now if we want to see some development in the town,” said another resident. “I pray the government do not drop this project too just like they dropped the tourism project.”