Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Transportation and lack of electricity, major hurdle for people of Panbang

Transportation and lack of electricity is the major hurdle for the people of Panbang Dungkhag under Zhemgang Dzongkhag.

The Dungkhag with most of its geogs located far from the road heads is one of the most inaccessible places in the country.

The people of Panbang say that any developmental effort would not mount up to their satisfaction as long as infrastructures like roads are not built. The 20 kilometer feeder road from Matangguri to Panbang serves their purpose for a while but they are once again left cut off from the outside world during the monsoon season.

Panbang is the only shopping centre for people in the different geogs. And to purchase basic amenities like kerosene, rice and salt would mean walking for days. The tedious journey limits their visit only to about 3-4 times a year.

Agriculture, especially mandarin is the main sources of livelihood for the people of Panbang. Had it not been for the transportation problem, they would be multiplying their income year after year helping them improve their living standard significantly.

As of now, horses are the only means of transportation. People say their major setback is encountered due to roadblock and the continued problem associated with the transportation of mandarin through the Indian Territory. Residents say that it will benefit immensely if the government construct an internal road between Zhemgang and Panbang.

Some of the residents say that monsoon creates havoc to the people of Panbang. The road between Panbang and Brabeta in Assam gets frequently disrupted leading to road closure for months.

Since Panbang does not have a referral hospital, they have to refer patients either to Gelephu Regional Referral hospital or to Yebilaptsa hospital. One can imagine the plight of these patients when the road gets blocked and they have to rely on potters to carry them on their backs to the hospital. The attendants of the sick sometime have to return home halfway when their patients cannot survive the journey.

Some of the residents say that the frequent road blocks leave them without enough to eat. Residents say that they have to keep the ration in stock. Among all the civil servants are hit hard during the monsoon season since they have to depend on regular supply from across the border.

The Principal of Panbang Lower Secondary school said that due to humidity the stock often gets spoilt. He knows the risk associated with the consumption of wild mushrooms and ferns yet they are forced to resort to such means as they are left with no alternatives. The principal also said that the students are at risk during the monsoon season as the murky water fetches waterborne disease like typhoid.

Apart from the road facilities, the people of Panbang are deprived of electricity. They say that life without electricity in the sweltering heat is difficult. Kerosene fuel lamp is the most common source of energy for the residents of Panbang Dungkhag. People travel all the way to Panbang from its various geogs for a day or two just to procure kerosene. This has not only affected economic activities but students as well. Residents also complained the quota of kerosene allotted in a month is not sufficient.

Panbang, if given access to the modern amenities will do well as it attracts business people from as far as Monggar.

The Panbang Dungpa Yeshi Rangrig said the Dungkhag has finalized a site for the construction of a power substation. But the date for construction is yet to be confirmed.

In the meantime the Bhutan Power Corporation agreed to supply electricity using a generator by next month. The Dungpa also said the Department of Roads has provided machinery to clear road blocks during monsoon.

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