Decision to move sections of CFM to poorly ventilated MLCPs also raises concerns
According to the Tshogpa of Centenary Farmers Market, Dendup, the Prime Minister has clearly explained about the current pandemic; however, the vendors are not happy since vendors were made to take part in lucky draw for the new location from where they would be selling vegetables from.
He said that they have around 500 vendors who are operating their businesses in the market and these vendors are from 205 gewogs who sell their produces in CFM.
“I’ve been asked frequently about the closure of CFM by the vendors operating their businesses in there. However, I don’t have any answer for them since we didn’t receive any notification from the government,” he said, adding that it happened all of sudden without issuing or informing them.
A vendor from CFM Chimi Dorji says that vendors are confused why CFM was not considered as one of the zones.
“We have been operating our business for many years and some have been operating for many decades now. Because of this business we have been able to sustain our living. We didn’t receive any notification and we don’t know if they are going to demolish the market or close down as a temporary measure to contain the virus. However, we were briefed by the Prime minister that it is to contain the virus and not for demolishing,” he said.
He added that the vendors were confused whether they have done something wrong and were being chased away from the particular area.
“We have submitted a letter to the Prime Minister and have mentioned that if it is a temporary measure to contain the disease we are willing to bear the losses since it will be a service to the government from our side and to let us return to the CFM once the situation gets normal,” he added.
According to the Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor, the government is planning to decentralize the market in Thimphu Thromde.
The Agriculture Minister said that if the Centenary Farmers’ Market in Thimphu will remain closed it will help in containing the virus and also help to ease traffic congestion and emission.
“The nature of CFM market is not safe because even if a small incident happens in that area it is going to affect everyone. On weekends people go for shopping and it is not a good strategy. It is too dangerous to have too many people,” the Agriculture Minister said.
Lyonpo said, “Everyone drives to this one point and they don’t get parking space so from any angle centralizing the market is not good. We are strategizing to make it more safe for everyone. We may open for our local produces because local farmers cannot go to other area to sell their produces and we will allow them till we give better facilities.”
Lyonpo said they have already collected all the vegetables from CFM and distributed it
The Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said that the Centenary Farmers Market is one nerve center where an outbreak can lead to the virus spreading throughout the wider region or the city.
“That is why we are going to distribute the businesses from CFM to all the 45 zones and so every zone will have an outlet that will sell every item that is sold at the farmers’ market but maybe in smaller proportion,” said the PM.
He said they have already had two rounds of discussion with the Thromde and they even discussed on the design and so they will construct a minimum of one outlet per zone and then those outlets will be given to business operators at the CFM.
The PM said his only condition is that the residence of the vendor should be in the same zone as the outlet.
“With this I also told Thromde that the Multi Level Car Parks (MLCP) are severely underutilized as the surface area used for the car parks is only 7 percent. So if they want one floor can also be converted into a CFM in those respective zones or places rather then building up new structures. That can be allowed for the time being unless there is too much rush for parking space. As the demand for parking space increases they must withdraw that vegetable vending business from there,” said the PM.
While moving the CFM to 45 zones to prevent a virus spread makes sense there is some puzzlement over sections of the CFM being moved to the two MLCPs as there are not well ventilated like the CFM.
The two MLCPs are currently being run by a company called KCR which has got a 22-year Public Private Partnership (PPP) agreement with Thimphu Thromde.
Though the MLCPs were brought in to resolve Thimphu’s parking woes the Thromde had tried hard to remove around 370 existing parking spots in and around Norzin Lam to benefit the 550 parking spots of KCR’s two MLCPs.
The previous cabinet put a stop to this based on the complaints of people along Norzin Lam and the Thromde tried to go ahead when the government changed but again people complained and they had to put a stop to it.
Of late there has been an effort to increase its current 20 percent commercial space to use up its vacant parking lots.
Moving sections of the CFM to the two MLCPs would allow it to commercialize its vacant car parking space and earn rent money from vegetable vendors.
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