Remote Sachilo lacks road access and electricity

Sachilo Chiwog is one of the remotest chiwogs of Wangphu gewog in Samdrup Jongkhar which lacks major facilities like road and electricity.

Wangphu gewog is 24km away from the Samdrup Jongkhar – Trashigang highway, while Sachilo chiwog has a total of 46 households with a population of 321.

People walk for more than two hours to reach the nearest motor road head. Although there is a farm road until Yarphu chiwog from the gewog centre, people still have to walk almost for more than two hours as vehicles refuse to ply because of the bad road condition.

Speaking to Business Bhutan, Tenzin, 59, said development is at halt because of the lack of road. “We still use mules for transportation and we don’t have stable electricity supply. During the monsoon, solar panels do not work and we have to live in the dark.”

He added during emergencies like sickness, it becomes hard for the community to get help on time. They have to carry loads till the road point.

Chiwog Tshogpa Gyembo said four women from the village gave birth on their way to the hospital.

“It is difficult to obtain birth certificates from the hospital when women give birth at home and there are also complications while registering the child’s census,” the Tshogpa said.

He added that they have forwarded the issue to the gewog and are looking for a positive response.

Another villager, Dendup Wangchuk said people grow all kinds of crops, especially potatoes, but without a road it is difficult to transport it to the market.

“All the chiwogs and villages in other gewogs are connected with farm roads. We wonder why our chiwog is still left without farm road and electricity,” Dendup Wangchuk said.

Main cereal crops grown in the gewog are maize and buckwheat. Beans and potato are also grown widely in the gewog. In terms of horticulture, mandarin is popularly grown in all the chiwogs and there are around 45 acres of land under mandarin plantation. Hazelnut plantation is also one potential income source for the people.

Langa Dorji uses firewood for cooking but has been looking forward to buying an electric rice cooker for a long time. “We were told we would receive electricity soon,” he said. “Our lives might be easier if we have electricity connection.”

Another villager, Sangay Dema, said solar panel gives light but after 9 pm, the light would not be operated and during monsoon the panel does not produce light.

Some of the non-wood forest products found in the Gewog are Rubia- Cordifolia, Chirata, Ringshu, Patsha and cane shoot. Two Chiwogs have backyard poultry farms and one Chiwog has backyard poultry farms. One Chiwog has backyard local breed poultry farm. Except for the local breed cattle, there are a very few high breed cattle under Wangphu gewog.

Benporong and Serchemo are other villages with no road and no electricity in the gewog. It is not only villages under Sachilo Chiwog, but also Serchenmo and Haila villages under Wangphu Chiwog, and Benporong village under Yarphu Chiwog which still depends on mule and pony for transportation. Farmers of Singsiborang also lack motor road and electricity.

Peldon said their community cannot take crops for sale due to lack of road but still they grow all kinds of crop for self consumption.

She added that if they have a road and electricity, local economy would receive a boost.

Bhutan Power Corporation’s Regional Manager Tashi Wangchuk in Samdrup Jongkhar said that they are planning to tender the electricity works which is under process. “We are planning to electrify all villages under one grid and tenders will be awarded in June or July this year with a time frame of six months.”

Wangphu Gup, Sangay Tenzin, said the chiwog will soon be connected with farm road as the administration has approved Nu 2.1mn for the first fiscal year and also allocated budget for the second fiscal year for the farm road construction.

“Due to lack of budget, we didn’t get a road but we will in the future,” he said.

The tender will soon be floated and the chiwog will get a farm road in the second or third fiscal year as there is Nu 6mn under common minimal infrastructure (CMI) from the government for the road construction.

Dokpla said that although the villagers have a solar connection, it is not as beneficial as main grid electricity and the villagers keep asking local leaders when their village would be electrified.

“Without electricity connectivity, it impacts other developmental activities in the village,” he said.

Sachilo chiwog does not have a school or health center. Wangphu Gewog has been recently bifurcated from Gomdar Gewog. The Gewog is bordered by Gomdar Gewog in the north, Martshala Gewog in the east and Orong Gewog in the south.

The total area of the gewog is 79.79sqkm. It comprises five chiwogs and 16 villages. The total registered households in the gewog are 400 with a population of 3,397 people. There are 29 gungtongs (Empty Households) as per gewog statistics.

The gewog has two primary schools, one Basic Health Unit II and four outreach clinics. The rural water supply coverage is 92%. Around 320 households are electrified and 60 households have access to solar lighting.

Wangphu gewog has huge limestone deposits and the potential to produce potato chips and flattened maize locally known as Tengma.

Currently, the gewog has challenges of marketing their agricultural goods because of lack of access to road and ruggedness of the landscape. The potential market and the nearest market for the above products could be Samdrup Jongkhar.

The farmers also face huge conflict with wild pigs and monkeys. Farm labor shortage and ruggedness of the landscape are other challenges faced by the people.

Samdrup Jongkhar Dzongkhag is divided into two Dungkhags: Jomotsangkha (Daifam) and Samdrupchoeling (Bhangtar); and further sub-divided in to 11 Gewogs. It has 65 Chiwogs and 191 villages.

The story was funded by the Content Development Grant of the Department of Information and Media.

Tshering from Wangphu, S/Jongkhar