Bhutan-India Relations to Soar as Gelephu SAZ Takes Flight

In a move set to bolster the historic ties between Bhutan and India, the Gelephu Special Administrative Zone is poised to undergo a transformative expansion, with its airport evolving into an international hub. Scheduled to commence in March of this year, the ambitious project will not only enhance regional connectivity but also contribute to the economic and infrastructural development of the region.

The Gelephu airport, currently a domestic facility catering to ATR aircraft, will undergo a significant transformation. The runway, currently 1.5km in length, will be extended to 2.5km to accommodate larger aircraft, such as the Airbus A320. Eventually, plans include extending the runway to a full 3.5km, enabling even the largest aircraft, like the A380, to land. This expansion will play a pivotal role in facilitating international travel and trade.

To accommodate the airport’s extension, the Aipoli streams will be redirected, ensuring minimal environmental impact. The commitment to sustainable development is evident in the foresighted planning, and landowners affected by the expansion have been duly compensated or provided with replacement land.

The strategic location of the Gelephu airport will be complemented by a 47-km railway line connecting it to Kokrajar in Assam, India, creating a multimodal transport hub. The integration of the airport, railway, and improved roads will catalyze economic activities in the region.

The repurposing of the Tareythang National Service site into the Gelephu Mindfulness City underscores the commitment to holistic development. Despite the challenges posed by the stalled Tareythang project, innovative solutions are being explored to optimize its potential, with a four-lane express road connecting it to Gelephu in the pipeline.

In a visionary move, the mega quarantine center in Jigmeling will be transformed into a training facility for various fields, promoting skill development and expertise. The Jigmeling industrial site, with its existing infrastructure, is ready for repurposing, adding to the multifaceted development approach of the Gelephu Special Administrative Zone.

As uncertainties regarding land holdings arise, the core team assures citizens of their inclusion in the GeSAR story and vision. The project, driven by His Majesty’s vision, aims to leave no one behind and involve the entire Bhutanese citizenry in this historic endeavor.

The Gelephu Mindfulness City, rooted in spiritual and religious practices, envisions the construction of majestic temples, cremation grounds, a Vajrayana center, and a dzong reminiscent of the Paro Rinpung dzong. Emphasizing a mindful and sustainable approach, the mega project seeks to preserve the cultural landscape and natural environment while fostering economic growth.

The administrative hub of the Gelephu Mindfulness City will be housed in the under-construction Sarpang Dzong, showcasing a unique blend of traditional and contemporary design. With completion slated for December 2024, the repurposed dzong will serve as the administrative epicenter, fostering a harmonious environment for both monastic and administrative functions.

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