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The pressure for expansion continues
The Thimphu city corporation is in a dilemma as it faces an unplanned city that is growing at the rate of seven to 10 percent a year, the fastest growing city in South-East Asia. According to the thrompon, Phuntsho Wangdi of the city corporation, the growth rate is "alarming". As the pressure for expansion continues, traditional street patterns in the capital are re-constructed to accommodate the demands of cars and the zoning of land mostly for business. Meanwhile the National Environment Commission (NEC) struggles with the environment concerns that increase with a growing city.

One of the major problems facing the NEC right now is the roads that are climbing up the hill slopes of the Thimphu valley. "We cannot stop the construction of private roads," says Karma L Rapten of the NEC adding that such activities were a natural process in any developing city. Private land owners were allowed to build roads as long as the construction had "minimal" damage to the environment and the expense for the construction was borne by the concerned private individuals. Apart from the permission of the city corporation, if it was within the municipal area, dzongkhags, the forestry authorities, department of roads, and concerned land owners the builder need clearance from the NEC. For example, a new private road above the River View hotel had fulfilled all their requirements and was approved after six months of feasibility study. Meanwhile, a new feeder road going up the Lungtenphu hill was stopped by the NEC for more than two weeks because it did not have the clearance.

The owner was later told to plant tree seedlings and grass, and to construct drains. The NEC anticipates many more private roads in the future. "If the people are willing to pay for it and if there is minimal damage to the environment, then on what grounds should we stop them?" said Thinley Namgyel of the NEC.

The city corporation also complains that private land and house owners above the Yangchenphug High School were using the school road. "They are not allowed to use that road," said the Thrompon who added that the city corporation was building a separate road for about 30 plot owners in the area. The road will start from behind the school and end below the Tandi-nye monastery. The Thrompon said that a structural masterplan of the city will be ready by February next year. It is being prepared by a firm based in Mumbai, India, with the ministry of communications.

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