Saving Thimphu

Clear signs

Clear signs

The International Institute for Environment and Development, in their book Climate Change and the Urban Poor, have identified Thimphu as on of the world’s 15 most vulnerable cities to the effects of climate change. The IIED warns that climate change could cause floods, landslides and fire in our capital.

This, obviously, is cause for concern. We must take the dangerous levels of our exposure to climate change seriously. And, we must do our best to work with the world to reduce global warming.

But, Thimphu is vulnerable not just because of climate change. We, the residents of Thimphu, are equally responsible for making our city vulnerable to disasters. We generate far too much garbage, and we don’t manage our waste properly. We drive too many vehicles and burn too much timber, making the pollution that hangs over Thimphu clearly visible in the winter. Added to that, Thimphu’s population is growing too fast.

So, while we demand the world to take concrete measures to fight global warming, we must also remember to do our part to protect Thimphu from ourselves.


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  1. Thinley Penjore says

    What IIED mentioned their recent book “Climate Change and Urban Poor” should be taken as a serious concern by our policy makers. It is indeed an advanced warning so that our policy makers have enough time to prepare for the worst. We have been already seeing the effects of climate change & global warming in several cities & towns both in developed & developing worlds in the form of floods, landslides, fire, hurricanes and to the extent tsunami. Bhutan and especially our capital city Thimphu will not be spared by the effect of climate change and for which preparation to cope up with such disasters is very important.
    Here, urban planning plays very crucial role because it is the urban planning which configures the whole city into proper form. It is urban planning which puts all pieces of the urban features into various forms giving the necessary direction of flow. Thimphu City Corporation being the custodian of Thimphu City development should incorporate features of disaster planning & management as part of their urban planning component. I am not going to elaborate on the technical issues as it is by itself a big topic to be discussed.
    One thing that I would like to stress here is that our drainage system in the town is very poor and inadequately designed. Every one of us know how the city (core area) used to get flooded when there is a heavy rain. The flooding of the cities/towns mainly occurs when the drainage systems are not properly designed and constructed; and now with increased buildings and increased roof area in the town, the situation would be even worse if the drainage systems are not improved. Similary, in the extended local area plans, the drainage could be a problem if not properly planned from the beginning. Mapping of the critical areas and formulating strategies & plans to develop urban disaster management plan is necessary and accordingly to earmark budget for the same. We should not wait for the disaster to test our patience instead we should be proactive to put necessary tools and strategies in place before it struks. When it strucks, it is then too late.

  2. Linda wangmo says

    The Gas station in the capital is a time bomb. I remember our OL once mentioning but our OLS habit is just raise the issue once and than forgets it……. I am serious and something bad can happen with this time bomb.

  3. While we proudly say that our country’s policy are more towards environmental protection predominantly maintaining more than 60 percent forest cover for all times, Thimphu is listed as one of the top 15 vulnerable cities of climate change.

    People will agree that the number of vehicles over the years have increased dramatically in Thimphu and also in other towns. The problem is not in buying a car. Everyone has the right to own a car and enjoy the luxury of driving around. It is convenient, saves time and saves expenditure that would otherwise go into taxi services. The problem is the number of cars that a family owns. If you look at the trends, particularly in Thimphu, most families, I would rather refer to “rich and elite”, they have more cars than necessarily required. The other day I was told by one of my friends that some ministers have around 6-7 cars lying uselessly at their place.

    Now, policies talk about imposing higher vehicles tariffs to new buyers. This is a ridiculous measure. This will further enhance our richer lot to afford more and more cars while section of the population suffer at their cost. They will continue to worsen the climatic condition through pollution and waste out of such behavior while we will continue to be part of their acts.

    Waste and garbage disposal is another increasing issue that is coming to the limelight. But who is really caring about it and doing something on it? It is a collective responsibility. I read about Japan’s waste disposal strategy. People in Japan actually pay while disposing their waste. They need to firstly segregate their waste properly and secondly they pay according to the amount of their wastes. This actually reminds them each day that when disposing the waste there is some kind of penalty and leading to reduce waste and proper disposal.

    What I see in Thimphu is totally different. First we don’t care how we dump the waste, because the waste collector vehicle of TCC, collects the waste as it is piled up by people. Second, the vehicle is not in time. Usually it comes twice a week to collect waste; Tuesday and Friday. But sometimes I find the vehicle don’t turn up even once, and by the time the vehicle comes, there are huge masses of waste from each family. Third, I wonder what is the condition of where these wastes are ultimately unloaded. From the way I see it, it gotta be awful.

    And we boast about our environment and forest cover!

  4. dorji thongja says

    I agree with OL as regards garbage and waste management, vehicle, timber, etc. I think for a small city with offices within walking distances we need to change our system. We need to improve our public transport system – mini buses with higher frequency. The bus services should be limited to cetain points in the city from where people should walk – good for health. The trucks and heavy vehicles should not be allowed in the main city centre. MPs should show example to other people as role models – drive small cars to city point and walk. The Agriculture Minister’s idea was something to admire. We need to create small parks in each areas such as Taba, Jungshina, Changzamtog etc. Parks can be made in areas which are left without any construction. People should not be allowed to cut the trees for “sang”, the traditional incense burning. To meet this need people should be encouraged to make plantations like the Christmas Tree plantations. The trees around Thimphu look terrible like featherless birds. The Bhutanese house construction needs a second thought. Each house contruction costs nearly 300 odd trees. I don’t think this is sustainable.

  5. climate change could cause fire in the capital?????

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