Karma Sonam Choden
Irked by the slow pace of Khuruthang town development in Punakha dzongkhag, business owners in the area are crying foul that the development activity is dragging on for too long.
They said it is affecting their businesses.
Residents and business people in the town had written to the Punakha dzongkhag administration about the irregular pattern of construction activity and requested the administration to instruct the construction firm to complete in one area and to move to another area.
According to a businessman in the township, the construction has been going on for more than two years, and there was no improvement. “We wrote to the dzongkhag administration and there was no response,” he said. “There is no improvement at all’.
He said they requested the construction firm to begin the work phase wise, but the firm is giving them unnecessary excuses.
The businessman also said the delay is affecting their businesses that have been hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
He added that any further disruption will kill their businesses.
Talking along similar lines, a resident pointed out that stakeholders are simply passing the buck.
“Many of us complained to the municipal office, but they say there is a lack of skilled workers,” said a local resident.
He also believed that there is more harm than good, and adds that the dust constantly blankets the town. “It may affect our health too.”
Punakha dzongdag, Thuji Tshering, told Bhutan TODAY that he was unaware of the complaint.
He said that he visited the site before the lockdown.
Regarding the phase-wise construction, the dzongdag said it is all one package and to shift from one site to another is not possible.
“Ideally, we would be happy if they do it phase wise,” he said. “The dzongkhag had also suggested the same to the contractor, but the work was awarded prior to the my cappointment.”
Meanwhile, the dzongdag had claimed he had gone for several rounds of site visits and directed the construction firm to rectify some of the works.
“We have been constantly reminding the contractor on the process of the work,” Thuji Tshering said.
The construction’s project engineer, Jigme Dorji, pointed out various reasons for the delay.
He said most of the delays was caused by unavailability of skilled workers, lockdowns, and other administrative processes.
He said that of the many reasons, the main one was the change of construction material of the drainage canals. “Earlier, we started with brick slot drainage channel, and later decided to go for plum concrete, and consequently coupling with the rate analysis with the Dzongkhag administration delayed the construction for six months.
He said the pandemic also impacted the construction. “Construction is cropping up in an old town riddled with wires and mini-pillars.”
He said since they are working in an area where development activities have already taken place and there are wires and mini-pillars underneath, they need to work cautiously so as to not damage the existing works,” said the project engineer.
To expedite the town development, the construction firm is exporting skilled expatriate workers from India.
“Many skilled expatriate workers took leave during the lockdown. It hit us hard,” said the project engineer. “Now, with the ease of restrictions, we are exporting 20 to 30 expatriate workers.”
The dzongkhag’s municipal engineer, Kencho Dorji, said that the office issued numerous notices to erect hazard signs to the contractor.
“We are concerned about the safety of the public surrounding construction hazards, we strictly monitor it,” he said.
He also narrated the video circulating in the local chat group of cattle trapped in a concrete manhole.
However, according to the municipal engineer, the calf was entrapped in the manhole following a fight.
Meanwhile, the municipal engineer also sought public support. “Such projects need immense public support,” he said.
He also informed that the dzongkhag municipal has proposed for an additional budget amounting to Nu 7 million from the government to install streetlights within the town.
The work order for the Nu 65 million Khuruthang Town Development Project was issued on March 1, 2020.
The completion of the town development is expected this June 2022.
There are two packages, the first package is worth Nu 23.3 million while the second package is worth Nu 40.98 million, and this includes the construction of drainages, footpaths, and roads.
Khuruthang town development falls under the Government of India’s grant assistance for key development projects.