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At Toorsa: The Phuentsholing Township and Development Project’s ongoing work
At Toorsa: The Phuentsholing Township and Development Project’s ongoing work

Dredging sites in P’ling hits procedural rock

It is uncertain if the three new dredging and surface collection works along the Toorsa embankment in Phuentsholing would be allotted.

Interested contractors and business firms are stuck with clearance from Construction Development Corporation Limited (CDCL).

This is because the three sites fall under Zone B of the Phuentsholing Township Development Project (PTDP), which are upstream of Zone A site that is currently being developed by CDCL.

Activities upstream of the development site could hamper the works downstream, which has made CDCL skeptic of approving any clearances, some contractors say.

The Department of Forest and Park Services (DoFPS) announced 24 feasible sites across the country on September 14 to be allotted on what is called the “first-come-first-serve-basis”.

Toorsa, which falls under Gedu forest division, has three feasible sites. More than 100 applications had already reached the Phuentsholing thromde for administrative approval.”

A meeting among relevant agencies was also held in Thimphu on September 30 to discuss this issue. Kuensel contacted DoFPS director Lobzang Dorji and CDCL’s chief executive officer Phuntsho Gyeltshen yesterday. 

Both said they did not want to comment.

Meanwhile, an applicant waiting for CDCL’s clearance said he heard the applicants wouldn’t get the clearance. Some are assuming that with CDCL opposing the award of sites near its worksite, the DoFPS would have to relook into the issue.

“But we are waiting as of now,” he said.

DoFPS’s ‘first come first serve basis’ allotment has also not gone well with the interested businessmen who are calling it a wrong approach at awarding important work that many are waiting. They suspect favouritism, even corruption if the sites are awarded on the system.

There are also allegations that an individual had visited Phuentsholing thromde office even before the sites were announced for allotment.

While some said the tendering process was more transparent, there were others who pointed a lucky draw, after meeting all requirements, could have been the fairest.

Contractors have also pointed out that CDCL is just another construction company and did not have the authority to approve clearances.

A private company, Ugen Trading House, has written to DoFPS on September 16 asking for time extension.

The Thimphu-based business establishment has stated that they have both interest and financial and technical capacity to take up boulder extraction from all the sites in Samtse, Sarpang and Gedu (Phuentsholing sites).

“However, our concern here at this point is that we cannot immediately produce all the documents and the clearance from the respective agencies,” the letter has explained.

The letter further emphasised it would take them several weeks to travel to all the three dzongkhags to get the clearances from several agencies.

Ugen Trading pointed that those individuals and firms already in dredging and surface collection business based in the three dzongkhags and those people who have connections with the agencies will have more advantage in obtaining clearances.

The letter further highlighted the notification lacked information on lease duration and security amount for bank guarantee. “The applicants are totally in the dark about the exact locations, approximate boulder quantity and site accessibility.”

While asking for adequate time, Ugen Trading asked DoFPS to evaluate the applications based on the financial capabilities and the resources rather than ‘first-come-first serve basis.’ Lucky draw was another ideal approach Ugen Trading pointed out.

Meanwhile, two dredging and surface collection sites at Singyechhu under Gedu division were also announced for allotment. These sites are already seeing some hindrances.

As the sites are upstream of the trade boundary wall at the Pasakha Industrial Estate and stretches towards the international Bhutan-India border within one kilometre radius, the Association of Bhutanese Industries (ABI) stressed the allotment of sites for dredging and surface collection at Singyechhu would trigger cross-border issues, which could affect the industrial operations.

On September 26, ABI also submitted a letter to the Department of Industry in Thimphu. ABI has pointed out that dredging works upstream could also breach the boundary wall and affect the industries located near the river.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

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