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Sarpang Town - The sleepy town that's about to awaken
Bhutan

Sarpang town, the oldest and which once was the commercial hub of the south central region, has for ages not seen much changes.

The only view that first catches the eyes of passersby is an array of semi-permanent structures that serve as shops along the Tsirang-Gelephu highway. The town's stagnated growth is mainly attributed to the flood from Sarpang khola (river), and partly because of security issues.

But things are looking up for the town, with a list of development activities planned to regain its commercial hub title. According to dzongkhag officials, the technical design for Sarpang town, which is provisioned for 25 years, is ready.

According to the plan, the town is divided into three local area plans (LAPs), with the existing town area as the core, the dzongkhag administrative block as institutional and residential area, while the new designated location at Shechangthang will serve as the district's commercial and residential hub.

Most shopkeepers in the town are ready to begin with their construction and waiting for government approval.

"The town has been like this ever since I was a child," one of the oldest shopkeepers, Radhika Karki, 67, said. "I've been running my shop here for the last 30 years."

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She said she had inherited land in the Shechangthang (old Rani Baghan), and is waiting for government approval to construct her house. Her family today lives at Taar, the dzong area, in a private house. She cited security issues and the house being a semi-permanent one as reasons for wanting to move into her own house.

"Sarpang was the best town and older than Gelephu and Damphu towns," 50-year old Buddhiman Rai from Lharing said. "But when others have transformed drastically, Sarpang town has remained the same."

Municipal officials said, for now, they are ready with the development of the Shechangthang area. When the development of the other two areas would begin is not yet known. "The documents are ready for tender, particularly for the road network of Shechangthang," Sarpang municipal in charge, Tshering Tashi, said.

He said that work for other urban amenities, like water and sewerage, would also follow from the next financial year. On the construction aspect, Tshering Tashi said plot owners could start off with their constructions, provided they follow the town development control regulations.

Contributed by Tshering Namgyal , KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper, 2014

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