Phuentsholing – from a small border town to a business hub

The Thrompon says that Phuentsholing one day will be the next Singapore

Though not to perfection, but the border town of Phuentsholing has witnessed and undergone drastic development as compared to a decade or two.

It’s likely to be a new town for those who haven’t been to Phuentsholing for long. Concrete buildings across the town now replace the preexisting one-storied structures.

New infrastructures have sprouted up and continue to mushroom each year. The new vegetable market shed and the multilevel car parking are the latest developments in the town in addition to the preexisting bus terminal and general hospital which were built in early 2000s.

 Apart from budget hotels, star hotels have also emerged in and around the town. There are now more than 50 budget hotels in the town.

A Phuentsholing resident, Sonam Wangdi, says the town has come a long way and many changes are visible now.

“Unlike in the past, the town now has better facilities than those days,” he adds.

Residents reminisce that the outskirts of the town a decade ago remained undeveloped with vegetation cover, which has been now covered with buildings. Most of the single-storied structures along the streets (earlier called the lower market) are now replaced with multi-storied buildings. The shops and the hotels that operate there are new too. Baskin Robins and Tropical Toppings are some of new shops that operate in the market. Further, most of the ancient groceries that earlier operate there have also been upgraded.

“It was tiny town then mostly covered by trees. The only notable was the core town. The town has spread in all direction,” a 72-year-old resident said.

 Further, a series of infrastructure developments are also underway in the town.

The road network development work in the town is underway. The construction of northern bypass from the second gate till the first turning is also expected to majorly decongest traffic.

Provisions are also there to not route all the heavy vehicles through the core town. And Bhutan’s first dry port including offices of different departments and agencies like the Department of Revenue and Customs, immigration and police are under construction.

Further, two bridges across Omchhu along the northern bypass will connect the road with the National Highway at the first turning near the Royal Bhutan Army’s office. These two bridges are expected to be complete by this year and the northern bypass will be opened for traffic.

Phuentsholing Thrompon Uttar Kumar Rai said the northern bypass will help in developing road network and decongesting traffic as all heavy vehicles will be diverted through that road.

The narrow roads inside the core town, beyond expansion, have been cited as one reason for traffic congestion.  Further, the narrow roads leading to Dhamdara and Kabreytar above the core town are also now planned by Thromde for widening given that the two places fall under the extended Thromde areas.

However, there are also issues that the town residents want the concerned agencies to look into such as delivering efficient public services, better roads, a fewer traffic congestion, and fronting.

Another challenge for the Thromde is to resolve the issue of narrow roads.

“There was not much vision and capacity those days. But now the development will be well planned,” the Thrompon said.

“The population has increased, so the need of the people. Also the pattern of operating business has to be developed. The new development will be based on proper planning and consultation with the public to avoid future mishaps,” he added.

The new town in Phuentsholing once all present works are complete will be a model town with modern facilities in place, according to the Thrompon.

Phuentsholing is believed to have excellent scope for eco-tourism where regional tourists visit the town daily. Currently, Kharbandi lhakhang is a prime hotspot for tourists visiting the town.

“Similarly, there are other areas where we can develop to promote tourism. We are focusing on those areas too,” the Thrompon said, adding that eco tourism is one advantage the town has in competing with the neighboring Indian town of Jaigaon.

“Trade and business mostly happen with Indian manufactured goods which are available comparatively at cheaper rates in the next town. So we need innovative ideas where the people can survive,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Phuentsholing Thromde has been allocated Nu 2.35mn for the 12th Five Year Plan period.

“The amount will be used for spill over projects in the town and for new developments. One day, Phuentsholing will be the next Singapore,” the Thrompon said.

Krishna Ghalley from Phuentsholing