Thursday, October 20, 2016

Et tu, BBIN MVA?

So the wailing has begun!!

Way later than I had expected - but it has begun and it will only get more and more cantankerous, with the passage of time. It had to happen. Because the disaster that was inherent in the road-widening project touches every section of the Bhutanese society - not just the motorists; not just the tourists - not to forget the environment!

According to Kuensel’s 20th October, 2016 news report, 750 of the usual 1,000 tourists could not make it to Bumthang during the Tamzhing Phagla Chothpa, because of road block. That is a whooping cancelation rate of 75%! This is serious bad news. And it will get worse, if we do not see the writing on the wall, and act hastily and decisively.

According to the Kuensel news, the Bumtap hoteliers hope that things will improve - provided the road contractors and the Department of Roads are able to keep the roads open during the Jambay Lhakhang festival due to take place soon - a real crowd puller. That is rather wishful thinking. In nature nothing can be taken for granted and we have messed with nature big time.

What the hoteliers forget is that if incessant rains do not cause roadblocks, sunny conditions will cause dust to rise and cause misery to the tourists. Their troubles are just beginning!

When the government announced the road widening works early last year, I pleaded that we should not do it because we do not have a need for it - not as yet. I had proposed that even if we have to do the work for whatever reason, we should do it in manageable stretches of 20 – 30 KMs at a time, and not dig up the road all the way to Trashigang. I have written close to 20 articles on the subject. Please read my articles under the label “Tourism Industry” listed on the left. In those articles, I have predicted exactly what is now happening.

The government has said that the road widening will be completed in 3 years. I have said that it will take 20 years. Now, one and a half years into the works, I get the feeling that the roads will never be done.

For the past one and a half years since the road widening works started, I have been trying to see a reason, a purpose for such a huge road running from west to center to the east. There are no factories en-route and economic activities in this region is practically zilch! The volume of traffic is more towards the south rather than to the center and the east. Then where is the need for such a gargantuan road that we can ill afford to build or to maintain, thereafter? I was totally nonplussed - until the embarrassing Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicle Agreement imbroglio during the 6th session of the second Parliament.

Some have said that it was the hand of providence - that caused the drama and theater surrounding the on-again, off-again ratification of the BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement during the 6th Session of the second Parliament. I am beginning to believe that there may be hell of a lot of truth in that. Since that peculiar affair, I began to wonder:

Can it be that the road widening works is linked to the BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement initiative?

If it is, then we are in serious trouble. I have this sickening feeling that we have yet again been had!

1 comment:

  1. I am not against development and widening of roads, but 
it is true unplanned development can be destructive. The way the mountains are cut rashly has rendered into unstable slopes. The indiscriminate cutting into unstable slopes (done at random or without careful judgement/planning) is leading to the unprecedented landslides. You can’t just make a road following the contour, you have to be very careful about the slope and how to cut into the hillside. The vertical cutting, massive excavation for the widening of roads and lack of engineering is causing our roads to slide down the mountain throughout the country. The geology of the Bhutan is weak and in the phase of stabilization. So the construction needs a proper consideration. Green road is constructed in phases with the objective of conserving the fragile mountain slope by minimizing the risk of landslide and soil erosion. But environment considerations were undermined because it was considered constraints to development. But the result of negligence is seen today and more to come in future…losses of land, siltation, landslides, soil erosion, loss of biodiversity etc.,