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A shift of focus (and populace) to the east

Earmarking Kanglung and Nganglam as regional hubs is part of a broader development plan

EDI: In a move to shift the overcrowded population from west to east, the Ministry of Works and Human Settlement is planning to develop two towns of Kanglung in Trashigang and Nganglam in Pemagatshel as regional hubs.

To start off, an expression of interest (EoI) to conduct a topographical survey of about 1,114 acres of land in Kanglung was announced yesterday.  For Nganglam, the topographical survey was already done when the new town at Rinchenthang’s master plan was drawn.

These two towns were selected among eight other shortlisted regions. Based on the existing institutional infrastructure, population and centricity, Kanglung and Nganglam were chosen.

While Nganglam, which is being connected to the rest of the eastern districts, is planned to become a commercial hub, Kanglung will be turned into an educational hub.

Deputy chief urban planner with the human settlement department, Bhawana Chhetri, said the regional hub plan had always been there and was featured in the Bhutan National Urbanisation Strategy, 2008, Strategy of Gross National Happiness Commission and the Bhutan 2020.

“It’s just a concept at the moment and will take a while to materialise,” she said, but added that developing the two towns as regional hubs did not mean that new infrastructure would be built.

According to the ministry, the existence of Sherubtse College in Kanglung has prospects to host high-level educational programmes, which are today concentrated in the west.

The domestic airport at Yonphula is expected to boost tourism in the east.  Some regional government offices might also be relocated to Kanglung in future.

“While we develop these regional hubs, we target at bringing down the poverty rate,” she said, adding that, in future, people from east did not need to come all the way to Thimphu for various works.

For the regional hub development, the government of India has provided Nu 150M for Kanglung and Nu 100M for Nganglam in the current plan.  A budget of Nu 50M from Kanglung will be used for drinking water supply alone.

Creating regional hubs is part of the East Development Initiative (EDI), which the government approved in principle last year.  EDI aims to economically strengthen and develop the six eastern districts.

The initiative was developed, following the government’s pledge of “rising east”, which promised balanced developmental activities in the eastern districts.

Besides the creation of regional hubs, EDI will also improve accessibility and transport infrastructure, accelerate hydro power development, establish premiere educational institutes, establish agro-based and green industries, improve tourism infrastructure, establish referral hospitals and provide policy support.

By Nirmala Pokhrel

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