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Plan for new high school falters …

… in the face of acquiring land used by GREF to store bitumen barrels

Phuentsholing Thromde: If the issue of land acquisition does not come through this year, Phuentsholing may not get its new higher secondary school, as envisaged in the 11th Plan, education officials said.

This is because the land, which the municipality and the education ministry have identified, has been under the GREF, Dantak area since the ‘60s.  Phuentsholing municipality has been trying to acquire the land since 2009.

Dungkhag education officer Namgay said the plan to construct a high school on that particular area, opposite the present truck parking, existed since 2009 but, until now, there has been no progress.

“We have only one high school, because of which we had to offer only commerce and science streams,” he said.

Namgay said those, who wanted to take up arts, had to leave for schools in Chukha or Haa, because Arts stream was removed after the school could not accommodate students. “The thromde was supposed to have talks and confirm but, so far, there has been no positive answer,” he said.

The present school, he said, cannot absorb all students from two middle secondary schools.  Seven sections of class 10 will be graduating this year, and each section has 35 students.  The number of students seeking admission increases, with many migrating or being transferred to Phuentsholing, every year.

If the new high school comes up, Namgay said the school would help do away the shift system in Phuentsholing lower secondary school, as well as remove classes PP-VI from the high school.  High schools should have classes from seven to 12, according to education policy.

With thromde schools handed over to the municipality earlier this month, the education officer said the thromde should now work on acquiring land soon.

Phuentsholing dungkhag has two middle secondary schools, with one more under construction, three lower secondary schools and a high school.

A municipal official said the land has been kept barren and under utilised by GREF.  Although they are yet to talk officially, the thromde has been requesting verbally to acquire the land. “Since it’s under GREF, it’s difficult to acquire,” the official said.

Phuentsholing’s chief urban planner, Tshering Phuntsho, said it was government land, but has been with GREF for years. “We were told that, if there is land substitution, they’d give the land,” he said. “But where is the land to substitute.”

The main reason asking for that land was because there is no other land available in Phuentsholing, he said.

He said about six of the total 10 acres is required for the school.  Tshering Phuntsho said the land was included in the structural plan for the school. “The land is kept idle to store GREF’s bitumen barrels, ever since GREF was set up in Phuentsholing,” he said. “Instead, we can use it for people’s benefit.”

Meanwhile, commander P Satish Warrier with GREF said, although they have not been informed officially, giving away the present land would be difficult. “The land that we’re using itself is a small area,” he said.  He also denied that the land was left idle and said it was used for storage.  The decision to give away the land should be routed through the higher authority, he said.

“We use that land for storing road construction materials to be supplied to Thimphu, Paro and Chukha,” he said. “And the area has already been small for us to store materials.”

The commander added, even if there is a land substitution, it would be difficult, since GREF cannot have storage far from their office. “We have to schedule our supply right now and if we need 100 barrels of bitumen, we ask them to send 20 on alternate days, since the area is small to store all the barrels.”

By Yangchen C Rinzin, Phuentsholing 

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