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Prioritize development first  

Come 2023, the capital city, Thimphu, will be an example to the rest of the world. We would be living in a model city that is culturally vibrant, progressive, safe, and environment friendly – a livable capital, so to say.

That’s what we are told. That’s the dream Thimphu Thromde and the Thrompon are selling. This was shared during a public consultation on Thimphu Structure Plan in January this year.

Going by the 12th Plan activities, some major changes are going to take place. The two fuel stations located in Chubachu and Lungtenzampa will be moved beyond core town limits to Hejo and Olakha. There will also be a highway from the core town via Pamtsho to Dechencholing, widened into a four-lane urban road. And besides new satellite hospital in Babesa and Changjiji, which is envisioned would reduce long waiting time at JDWNRH, works for centenary markets have also begun in Jungshina and Olakha.

And of the many activities, the Thromde has also prioritized replacing the Lungtenzampa bridge. Thimphu Thromde’s budget for the 11th Plan was Nu. 2.5bn, which has been reportedly doubled to Nu 5bn for the 12th Plan. Fresh investments can be made to rebuild the bridge. Considering that Lungtenzampa bridge is an iconic landmark, it seriously merits repair or replacement. Therefore, a new bridge to replace the Lungtenzampa bridge has been prioritized.

That said, how will a new bridge alone make Thimphu an exemplary town? The bridge may merit development but does it supersede all other issues and problems that are there for years? Issues and problems that have been continuing and waiting to be addressed!

We have and are already grappling with the problem of burgeoning Thimphu city and the exponential population growth. With the growing population, waste management has also become a serious problem. It has become a challenge for the Thromde office too as how to address it effectively in a sustainable way. While having had urged people on the importance of waste segregation, waste collections, nonetheless, are still erratic.

Further, even old existing roads like the one in the Hong Kong market area, from the Thai temple to Chubachhu Milk Booth, to another like the one in Changzamtog and one leading to Zimdra Automobile Workshop from the Zero Point in Babesa, are desperately calling for repairs. Riddled with potholes, it is as if no one cares and no one is concerned.

Similarly, the expansion of Thimphu city is currently taking place through the implementation of the Local Area Plans but many of these places are confronted with basic problem like access to drinking water. While some residents are grateful to have two hours of drinking water to their homes, some are seen battling for weeks and months.

It’s apt, therefore, that we shouldn’t always construe development by giant buildings, skyscrapers and elegant infrastructure. Firstly, let’s address the problems of the basic amenities, from waste to continuous access to water and better roads. They must be prioritized. And then the rest should follow.