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Planners draw up a grand vision for the capital city
Thimphu in 2027 - a city of 150,000 people with an environment that provides a good quality of life with adequate space to work, drive, jog, cycle, picnic, relax and be close to nature.

The department of urban development and housing's US $1.00 billion structural plan for Thimphu for the next 25 years will be presented to the government in about a month. The plan outlines the overall development of one of the fastest growing cities in this part of the world, at seven to 10 percent.

"There is a lot of unplanned growth and ad-hoc development taking place here," the director general of DUDH, Tshering Dorji said. "The structural plan aims to guide and control the growth of the city. It is not too late to plan a good city." "The structural plan gives an overview of infrastructure proposal, investment plans and land-use," DUDH's senior town plannersaid. "It covers the geographical area from Changtagang in the north to Nabi Rongchhu in the south. The forest line serves as the east-west boundary."

70 percent of the new municipal to keep as open space and green areas
Thmiphu plan The map of the extended Thimphu municipality

The plan divides the new Thimphu municipality, extended under a directive of the council of ministers in 1999, into 21 precincts or zones with a total area of 26.5 square kilometers. It proposes that once a particular precinct is designated for a certain purpose, it should serve only that use or purpose. For instance, an area that has been marked as either agricultural or residential precinct cannot be put to any other use.

The structural plan has identified "node points" - such as Taba and Babesa - which will be self-contained neighbourhoods with good transport networks, workshops, car-parks, schools, community halls, cinemas, restaurant and shops. "About 20-30 percent of the new municipal area will be developed to accommodate the projected population growth in the next 25 years," the DUDH director general said. "The remaining 70 percent will be kept as open space and green areas." A six-lane central urban corridor road, to be part of the expressway, is also envisioned in the plan. A footpath that goes around the entire municipal boundary is under consideration. Thimphu would also serve as a cultural and heritage center. "The city's traditional and cultural heritage will be kept intact," the town planner says. Places like Changangkha, Trashichhodzong and Dechenphodrang will be protected and promoted as heritage precincts. "Existing traditional buildings within the municipal boundary and the surrounding regions will be preserved and traditional architecture will be promoted," the planner said. "

Traditional buildings within the municipal boundary and the surrounding regions will be preserved

"Existing traditional buildings within the municipal boundary and the surrounding regions will be preserved and traditional architecture will be promoted," the planner said. "All new buildings will be required to incorporate the elements of traditional architecture. We will now be more vigorous and firm in implementing this rule which was often violated in the past." One of the tenets of the plan is that nature will be respected. All important water bodies are listed for protection. No construction will be allowed within 30 metres on either side of a river or stream.

This corridor will be turned into green areas. "We do not want our capital to be a concrete jungle but a comfortable city which is closest to nature," Tshering Dorji said. The broad conceptual objective of the structural plan is to develop Thimphu along with the adjoining districts. Paro, Punakha and Wangduephodrang have together been identified as the national capital region. The biggest hurdle for the DUDH, today, is getting powerful Thimphu landowners to accept the plan. About 25-30 percent of the registered landholdings will be taken as land pool under the provisions of the plan.

This proposal, along with guided land development, is likely to fray many nerves and raise hackles. "This is a draft plan," the Thimphu Thrompon said. "We still need to have further discussions with the town committee, other organisations, and the stakeholders. We need everyone's feedback, suggestions, support and acceptance." He said that residents would have to be prepared to place the societal and larger common benefits before personal ones.

"This definitely would mean displeasing a few individuals," the Thrompon said. "But we will have to make sacrifices. Some day we will all be proud of our city." The director general of DUDH said that the department would do its best to ensure that no one was displaced and that one person's loss did not benefit another individual. "Everything will be for the good of our capital city and the people of Bhutan," he said. "But we are also prepared to accept that we cannot produce a plan which everyone will like.".

This article was contributed by KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper 2002
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