Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar
Not long ago, Samdrupjongkhar was a vibrant town.
Called the commercial hub of eastern Bhutan, it was full of activity, as people from the six eastern dzongkhags would flock to the town. Across the border gate, Gudama or Mela bazaar was the favourite shopping place where villagers bought everything from doma to utensils to religious instruments.
The town lost the vibrancy following security issues, once in the early 1990s and then in early 2000. There is an initiative to revive the town.
The Royal Bhutan Flower Exhibition, last year, brought back, literally, the colour to the town and hope to residents kick-starting a revival.
Communities and concerned stockholders of Samdrupjongkhar will now work together to develop Samdrupjongkhar as a Gross National Happiness (GNH) based commercial hub in eastern Bhutan.
This is an initiative of the Samdrupjongkhar Initiative (SJI) and Bhutan Centre for Media and Democracy (BCMD).
Yesterday, they launched the Samdrupjongkhar town’s vision and mission to create a vibrant, responsible, strong and inclusive community among others in the next 10 years.
The message is driven into the residents through a play on the importance for the communities to be united and work collectively among others to develop the community.
Samdrupjongkhar dzongrab, Pema Dorji, said there is no sense of belonging and responsibility among the community, adding that it is important to have cooperation, good relation, social cohesion, participation and collectivity.
He said the communities and concerned stakeholders should work together to develop a people-friendly town. “Vision and mission of the Samdrupjongkhar town is one of the key components to achieve it.”
SJI’s programme director, Cheku Dorji, said community mapping works started since 2017 and the vision and mission is one of the major outcomes of the community mapping, adding that they had also trained more than 90 youths on community development and carried out awareness in the communities.
He said people think that it is dzongkhag, thromde and gewog’s responsibility to provide facilities like road and drinking water supply among others. “It’s important to support others if you want to be supported.”
The programmer director said they carried out several consultations with the communities and stakeholders before they drafted the vision and mission. “This would also help revive the dying business in Samdrupjongkhar.”
The vision is to create GNH-based commercial hub in eastern Bhutan and mission is to nurture a commercially and culturally vibrant community living in peace, health and inclusivity, among others.
The vision and mission will be achieved by strengthening collaboration and coordination among the stakeholders, strictly implementing the laws for a safe, clean and healthy town, balancing urbanisation through the promotion of local traditions, cultural heritage and environment, investing in recreational facilities, cultural promotion, growth of local economy and capitalising on social cohesion and adopting a more consultative and participatory approach to town development.
Cheku Dorji said since there is no such programmes planned for the vision and mission, it is the concerned stakeholder’s responsibility to implement and take it further to achieve the GNH-based town in Samdrupjongkhar.
A press release from the BCMD stated that since building community initiative is a project modeled on involving and engaging citizens in decision making and planning at the local level, the vision and mission would become a guiding document for the development of the Samdrupjongkhar town.
The press release also stated that they constructed the vegetable shed, revived paddy cultivation in Rihkey, repaired choeten in Menchari and opened the new youth centre in Dewathang in the last three years during the community mapping.
If the vibrancy created, even if it is for a while, by a play performed by students of Jigme Namgyel Engineering College during the launch, is anything to go by, there is hope and future for Samdrup Jongkhar town.