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Samtse becomes a modern town  

Works underway in Samtse to give the town the much-awaited facelift.

Samtse, one of the oldest planned towns, is finally getting a long-awaited facelift.

After the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement (MoWHS) approved the planning for the Local Area Plan (LAP) 1, new constructions have mushroomed beginning early this year. Already, the town has got several modern facilities that had been absent for a long time.

Now, with two new buildings complete, the town has a tourist standard hotel, restaurants, shopping complex and entertainment centers. Four more buildings are under construction. Works on the rest will begin soon.

After all the buildings are completed, the residents of Samtse will get other facilities, too.  So far, the town had remained primitive with single-storeyed buildings and market sheds.

Eighteen new structures will be connected by an arcade along the front of the buildings. The double-storeyed arcade will house shops and other facilities. Nu 109mn has been allocated for the entire town development.

The new constructions coming up this year will be completed by 2020. The municipality has mandated the land owners willing to construct, to build four-storeyed structures to give a uniform look to the town. The other buildings which will not be connected by the arcade can be ordinary and need not necessarily be four-storeyed, according to Samtse Dzongkhag’s Municipality In-charge, Tenzin Drakpa.

The arcade will be constructed at the current road and the new ring road will be opened from the ground.

The open space which has been used as the Sunday Market till now will be developed into a children’s park. The Sunday market sheds are now permanently relocated below the core town called Devithang and will be used to sell only organic vegetables on Sundays.

However, the bus station and taxi parking will be kept as they are. All the activities are carried out under LAP 1 where the land is acquired and compensated. The works on providing basic infrastructures are being carried out by dzongkhag municipality. Installing of street lights, construction of drainage and sewerage are also on.

“Then, we will allow constructions by individual land owners,” said the Dzongkhag Thromde Ngotshab, Som Kumar Pradhan. The ministry has already approved the plan. The dzongkhag also plans to install an artificial turf in the public ground after talking to the Bhutan Olympic Committee.

“We are hopeful we will get it by 2018. We have initiated dialogue with them,” said the Dzongkhag Planning Officer, Tashi.

The construction of arcade will be funded 40% by the government and the rest by the owner. The road widening work will start from the border to the town. The survey for the construction of the theatre is under progress.

Meanwhile, locals say that the new town development is expected to boost local economy and solve the housing crunch. Samtse is already facing housing shortage and people working in Samtse are staying as far as Khanduthang and Chengmari almost 8-10km from town.

As Norbugang Central School is under construction, the population is expected to increase.

Also, it is being predicted that the development of Dhamdhum Industrial Park will cause a spike in population.

“The new town if complete will bring economic development and solve the housing crisis,” said Phuntsho Wangdi, the owner of a recently constructed building.

The opening of the Samtse-Haa route could also attract people. Samtse, being closer to Siliguri, businessmen from Paro and Haa are expected to visit the town for shopping rather than routing through Phuentsholing.

The town planning activities started more than a year back.

Municipality authorities said that the town will be based on local needs and be sustainable and environment-friendly.

“We have planned the town as a smart city having facilities like open-air gym, theatre and multi-sports complex,” said Tashi.

Currently, Samtse has a population of 4,664.

Krishna Ghalley from Samtse