The east, being far off from the capital and lacking in many fronts, will be the focus of a balanced regional and equitable development. The government has integrated an eastern development initiative into the 11th FYP, said Minister of Works and Human Settlement (MoWHS) at the 14th Meet-the-Press held yesterday in Thimphu.
Lyonpo Dorji Choden said the east has a low economy compared to the other regions of the country. She said the road connectivity is a very important infrastructure for improving the social and economic development, travel, and health and education services.
Therefore, the widening of east-west highway will enhance the transport and trade facilities between east and west. Lyonpo added that the plan was not included in the 11th FYP, but the Department of Roads, MoWHS has integrated the works. Lyonpo Dorji Choden also added that the operation of the Yonphula Airport, which has been on hold because of the extension and improvement works, must be accelerated.
She said that the government will also add more resources and strategies to increase the scale of agriculture production in the east. On this, the Minister of Agriculture and Forests, Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji, also highlighted that the east must focus on the agriculture for livelihood since 84% of the people practice agriculture there, compared to 62% nationwide.
Sharing on the ministry initiative, Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said the ministry plans to set up farm shops, which will provide many opportunities, including a market to sell the farm produce. He said that the government also plans to distribute agriculture products through inter-district and inter dzongkhag to achieve sustainability.
Lyonpo also addressed the need of electric fencing and issues on labour shortage in farms. He said the east has a comparatively lower number of power tillers, and therefore, the Agriculture Machinery Centre is developing a strategy to reach a power tiller in each and every gewog within this month. Based on the need, Lyonpo said that the number of power tillers in the east is about 300, whereas in west, there is more than 1000. The ministry also has plans to set up agro-industry, like in Wangchutaba in Thimphu, at Zimzurung, Monggar.
In tourism sector, Lyonpo Dorji Choden said tourism is a main activity that can boost the economy in the east. She said it is crucial for the Yonphula Airport to be operational and other transport system has to be very good too.
The Prime Minister, Tshering Tobgay, added that the internet connectivity in the east will be improved with support from Druknet and Department and Information, Technology and Telecom, which has come up solutions to improve the bandwidth.
Lyonchhen also added that hydropower is the other growth initiative. He said the government is looking into starting the 1020 MW Rotpashong, which is outside the scope of 10,000MW. The hydro projects, like Gamrichhu, Ngyeraamachhu is also expected to accelerate the growth in the east.
Lyonchhen also said that the Business Opportunity and Innovation Centre (BOiC) has set up a branch office in Trashigang on February 5. There are also colleges to be set up in the east, like the Yonphula Centenary Institute of Education, which the government plans to build into a proper college.