Watch | Gelephu megacity dreams | Bhutan PM interview

Watch | Gelephu megacity dreams | Bhutan PM interview | Worldview

This week we are looking at Bhutan, India’s smallest and most reclusive neighbour, that rarely gets spoken about.

But now, with an announcement made in December by the Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck is hoping to make a big splash, with the creation of the Gelephu Mindfulness City (GMC) to its south bordering Assam.

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The plan for Gelephu includes:

Developing about 2,000 square kms of Bhutanese territory as a carbon-negative Special Administrative Region, attracting investors and service industry giants to set up there. A Danish firm has already been chosen and is working on plans for buildings, bridges, markets and a dam.

Building a new airport to replace the existing airstrip- this is one of the most cost-intensive projects, and Indian officials have already visited for feasibility studies.

Special facilities to bring in IT companies, health, hospitality, educations sectors in particular.

Investment in infrastructure and connectivity – India has already committed to a rail line right up to Gelephu, a ₹1,000 crore project, transit trade, border checkpoint facilities for trade and upgrading roads to the North East and Bangladesh, the trination highway. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also announced a doubling of Bhutan’s outlay for the next 5 year plan, from ₹5,000 crore to 10,000, of which about ₹1,500 crore is part of an economic stimulus plan for Bhutan.

The plan for Gelephu as a megacity is not new. Many countries have such plans, like Saudi Arabia’s NEOM; Indonesia’s Nusantara; Egypt’s New Administrative Capital; India had the ambitious Amravati project which was shelved; Pakistan has Gwadar Port and City- built by China; Sri Lanka’s Hambantota Port project, which has now been leased to China due to financial losses.

We spoke to Bhutan’s PM Tshering Tobgay, and asked him how feasible this plan for Gelephu is, and how to avoid the pitfalls of becoming a white elephant.

Script and presentation: Suhasini Haidar

Production: Shibu Narayan

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