In response to a question at the monthly meet the press the Prime Minister and Economic Affairs minister both said that the Eastern Development Initiative (EDI), a special initiative to develop the six dzongkhags of eastern Bhutan was already being implemented.
Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said, “EDI is a big umbrella program with a lot of activities in terms of regional development and many activities are already happening.”
He said one main focus area was communication and so the government was implementing the double laning of the East-West highway, redoing the Yonphula airport and as communication improved so would tourism. He said the government was looking at opening up the Yonphula and Guwahati sector.
The Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said that without proper communication the east would never develop. He said he had asked Airbus to explore whether it can land its large Airbus international planes on the Bumthang Airport and Airbus was already studying the possibility. The PM said the runway can be made longer to accommodate a large plane but the only issue was if the Bumthang valley would allow large planes to land.
If this was done then it would open up a whole range of tourism and growth possibilities from the center to the east according to the PM.
He pointed out that the government had finalized to buy two Airbus Helicopters and so helicopter services to the east would be made possible. The PM stressed that given the remote location of the east the chopper services would benefit the east the most. He said both business investors and government officials could travel there easily.
Lyonchhen said that until recently the internet bandwidth speed for eastern Bhutan was very low. He said that he had personally talked the Department of Information Technology and Bhutan Telecom and as a result the internet band with in the east has now drastically improved.
The PM said the biggest investment is hydropower and work on Kholongchu would soon begin. He said the cabinet had approved the Detailed Project Report studies of 473 MW Nyera Amari-I&II as the studies had been promising. He said the cabinet also approved pre-feasibility studies of 64 MW Gamri-I and 79 MW Gamri-II.
He said the Bondeyma Industrial Estate in Mongar would encourage small industries while the one in Motanga would have larger industries.
The PM pointed out that BOiC itself had set up its office in Trashigang to enable people from the east to gain access to its services and soft loans.
Lyonchhen said EDI also covered a lot of village development programs like better Gewog connectivity, better farm roads, irrigation water, green houses, farm mechanization, electric fencing and farm shops where farmers can sell their produce.
The government is deadly serious about establishing three colleges in the east said the PM. He said the Royal University of Bhutan had been instructed to look at upgrading the Dewathang Polytechnic into an Engineering College. He said the government was looking at upgrading the Zorig Chusum institute in Trashiyangtze into a College of Arts and Crafts. Yonphula is being looked at as a location of a new college to upgrade the skills of teachers. Lyonpo Norbu Wangchuk said the possibility of a Nursing college was also being studied. The PM said that his state of the nation address had also invited private Bhutanese colleges to serve people and provide higher education.
EDI also has a focus on developing Agro and Green Industries, improving tourism infrastructure, establishing referral hospitals and providing policy support.
The Eastern Development Initiative (EDI) identified and prioritized Kanglung, Nganglam and Gyelpozhing as the regional growth centers based on multi-criteria analysis.
The plan will cover Dzongkhags like Lhuentse, Mongar, Trashigang, Trashiyangtze, Pemagatshel and Samdrup Jongkhar with the combined total population of about 201,050 constituting about 27% of the national population.